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What do we get for $859 billion? US emissions of carbon dioxide will be reduced by slightly less than 1 billion metric tons. That sounds significant unless you know the basic arithmetic of the terrestrial carbon cycle. The Earth’s atmosphere holds 720 billion tons of carbon, and the oceans contain 38,400 billion tons of carbon.  Every year, soils release 100 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere; and the oceans absorb and release about 90 billion tons.

The greenhouse effect cannot be regulated away. The net effect of the EPA regulations will be to reduce the mean global temperature in the year 2100 by less than 0.02 degrees Celsius. Yes, you read that correctly:  it’s all cost, no benefits. While the US impales itself on the altar of ignorance, other countries will continue to burn fossil fuels unabated. Developing nations want the prosperity and quality of life that comes from the utilization of fossil fuels. Increases in life expectancy, literacy, education, and prosperity are all correlated with energy use. By the year 2050, the combined population of China and India will be seven times larger than the US.

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While carbon dioxide emissions from China are rapidly growing, no one seems to have noticed that they’re on the decline in the US.  Ironically, this is solely attributable to the petroleum industry.  The technology of hydraulic fracturing has brought vast new reserves of natural gas into play, and the substitution of gas for coal yields lower carbon dioxide emissions.  While Obama tries to reverse the Industrial Revolution, scientists and engineers in the petroleum industry continue to sustain the US economy by providing abundant and inexpensive energy.

Editor’s note: This column originally appeared at and is reprinted here with permission.

Photo credit: SS&SS (Flickr)

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