“Colder weather drives forecast of 2014 energy-related CO2 emissions 1.1% above 2013 level” reads the Federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) headline.
The EIA explains that “total energy use and CO2 emission for the first six months of 2014” increased when “compared with the same period the year before,” as Americans increased heat and power usage to confront weather which was colder than the previous 10-year average.
Historically, cold snaps killed people unprotected from the weather, and for the survivors, the devastating effects of prolonged freezing temperatures on vegetation and livestock could lead to hunger and famine. Today however, Americans are shielded from harsh weather in their fossil fuel heated homes and cities, safe in the knowledge that the modern mechanized agriculture and transportation industries, fueled by oil and natural gas, will ensure they are fed.
This is not something we should feel guilty about—it’s an achievement we should be proud of. Americans have created sufficient fossil fuel wealth and technology to protect themselves from our ever-dangerous, ever-changing climate.
Additionally, the ready availability of low cost heat and power provided by coal, oil and natural gas, demonstrates that Americans still believe that our goal should be to maximize human well-being, not minimize CO2 emissions at the expense of human well-being.
Imagine the suffering this winter would have dealt to American families without fossil fuels. If environmentalists had forced the closure of even more coal fired power plants, or aborted the production of natural gas through hydraulic fracturing (fracking), how much more would heat and electricity have cost? How much more expensive would the cost of living be? Who would have suffered? Who would have died?
Fortunately, this did not happen. When faced with frozen winds and heavy snow loads, Americans did not have to depend on expensive and unreliable windmills and solar panels for survival. Instead, they were able to rely on affordable and reliable fossil fuels.
That’s not something we need to atone for. It’s something we should celebrate.