Commentary

Breakthrough? Local climate change deniers tout shift to natural gas…for lowering greenhouse gas emissions

Image: Natural Resources Defense Council

One should probably mark it down as a sign of progress. After all, it’s not every day that a far right advocacy group that’s spent many years and thousands upon thousands of words denying the reality of human-aided climate change, attacking renewable energy and lauding fossil fuel consumption publishes something that implicitly admits the error of its ways.

It would be nice if the group had published it under a banner headline proclaiming “We Were Wrong” and, perhaps, promised not to mislead readers any more, but we’ll settle for the baby step in the right direction that last month’s “Spotlight” report with the bare bones title “Natural Gas” represents.

The group in question, of course, is the Raleigh-based John Locke Foundation. As many readers are probably aware, the group (and its chief funder, conservative financier Art Pope) both have a long history of denying (or helping to deny) the reality of climate change and the role that humans play in bringing it about. A 2013 Institute for Southern Studies report (“Art Pope still funding climate change disinformation”) lays out several details, but you can simply go to the group’s website and enter the search terms “climate change” or “CO2″to find a bevy of articles that will make your head explode.

Happily, however, last month’s “Natural Gas” report seems to signal an important shift. Granted, the report is all about promoting the use of a fossil fuel and starts off with the disheartening and counter-productive assertion that “The top priority for electricity policy in North Carolina is keeping consumers’ costs as low as possible,” but hey, at least the report offers one king-sized concession: it repeatedly admits the desirability of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

The report even quotes Obama administration officials, the European Union and the liberal Brookings Institution for the premise that the ongoing switch from coal to natural gas is benefiting our environment because it’s cutting CO2 emissions — i.e. one of the chief causes of global warming.  This is from the conclusion:

“Natural gas is not only a low-cost source of electricity, it has positive environmental impacts. Gas-fired electricity production is responsible for lowering CO2, SO2, and NOx emissions.”

To which, all a caring and thinking person can say in response is “hooray!” Like a substance abuser who finally admits that he or she has a problem, the Locke people appear to have taken a step in crossing an important Rubicon. Let’s hope it’s only the first of many such admissions from the various Pope groups in the weeks and months ahead on everything from tax policy to Medicaid expansion to HB2.

Keep your fingers crossed, but don’t hold your breath.

2 Comments


  1. Alex

    July 14, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    I’ve read several studies recently that seem to contradict many of these assumptions. With the harmful effects of fracking on our water supplies, it may be the wrong way to go.

    “Increased use of natural gas has been widely credited with having reduced U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in recent years. But the new study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, finds that between 2013 and 2055 the use of natural gas could reduce cumulative emissions from the electricity sector by no more than 9 percent, a reduction the authors say will have an insignificant impact on climate. The power sector accounts for around a third of U.S. emissions.
    The researchers—from the University of California, Irvine; Stanford University; and the nonprofit organization Near Zero—examined varying combinations of natural gas supply and climate policies. In some scenarios, they found that use of natural gas would actually boost emissions from the power sector by up to 5 percent “.

  2. Alan

    July 17, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    This is fantastic progress by the far-right loons at JLF, eventually catching up with the rest of civilization. Next up, they’ll be able to stand up straight and use a bathroom of their choosing?

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