The Free Market is Going Green (All By Itself!)

Erika Johnsen

5/12/2011 4:19:00 PM - Erika Johnsen

With all of the climate change scaremongering going on out there, environmental anxiety abounds and it can be pretty easy to fall prey to the perception that environmental quality is always getting worse. Many are under the impression that we are spewing out ever-increasing amounts of damagingly toxic gases and that we are on the fast-track to the end of the world. Au contraire!

Since 1980, the United States’ GDP has increased by 122%, the population has increased by 35%, and the number of miles we travel annually has increased by 95%. And yet, somehow, our total carbon dioxide emissions have only increased by 28% and our total energy consumption has only increased by 22%.(This is all data from the EPA, by the way.)


Our energy consumption and carbon emissions have not even remotely kept pace with the number of miles we drive and our productivity, and that’s not all. The EPA identifies six criteria pollutants that hinder air quality: carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide. The level of each of these pollutants in the atmosphere has decreased since 1980. Put together by Environmental Trends:


The EPA interprets these trends as “an indicator of the effectiveness of our programs.” I interpret them as an indicator of the inherent merits of a prosperous, free-market based economy that rewards businesses and entrepreneurs for developing progressively efficient technologies. And make no mistake about it – if allowed to do so, private individuals and businesses will continue to invent, expand, streamline, and become ever-increasingly efficient, and these environmental trends will continue in the right direction. The notion that we will never get there without the government's guidance is just plain wrong.

Notice that these trends do not follow partisan lines. If the environmentalists are not careful about forcing green industry upon us and the subsequent hampering of our economy, they may bring about the very environmental degradation they claim to want to avoid.