Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fox Gets It Right on Emissions – Or Close Enough

Media Matters for America and Fox News are not the best friends in the media landscape, with the former often calling out the latter for what it perceives as bias in its reporting. I have no particular brief on that subject.

But I do recognize that the energy business has done a fair amount to bring down carbon emissions through the increased use of natural gas, renewable energy and nuclear energy (through uprates) – and is quite conscious of it - so I found this report from Media Matters somewhat amusing:

But Fox is ignoring the confluence of factors and touting the decline as a triumph of the free market. A Fox Nation headline today declared: "Free Enterprise Makes the Air Cleaner." On Varney & Company, Fox Business contributor Charles Payne said: "The free market, cleaning up our air. Says a lot about the free market, doesn't it?"

Payne is essentially correct here. We might focus on “bringing down carbon emissions,” though “cleaning up our air” is fine for the purpose. Media Matters says:

The Energy Information Administration announced earlier this month that U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in early 2012 were the lowest measured for a January-March period since 1992. The report attributed the decline to a combination of three factors: reduced household heating demand during an unusually warm winter, a decline in coal generation due to low natural gas prices, and low gasoline demand as a result of a slowed economy and the shift towards more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Media Matters is correct, too – but you’ll note that it has to include items such as the “decline in coal generation due to low natural gas prices,” which the industry didn’t have to do a thing about – but it did – because it liked that it could bring down carbon emissions (and increase profit, too – let’s not be too naïve here – but let’s not be too cynical, either – this is an unalloyed good outcome.)

I’d also note “fuel-efficient vehicles” as a government-industry mandate/goal, disrupting the purring about the free market, but still – close enough.

If government priorities aren’t all bad, neither are free market prerogatives. The balance between the two can lead to (sometimes heated) arguments, but not the premise. So Payne has a valid argument to make here in favor of the marketplace.

We might have given all the points to Fox News on this one. But:

[Reporter Tracy] Byrnes went on to ask her guest why carbon dioxide emissions -- which are not "poisonous" or "inflammable" -- are even a problem in the first place.

So, there you go.

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