This is ten different kinds of glorious.

Greenies are always lamenting that we need big government to force humanity to treat the planet with their idea of respect, and bemoaning the toll that prosperity ostensibly takes on the environment. It’s a darn shame that they’re stuck on one speed in that line of argument, because in reality, a thriving economy and environmental quality are not mutually exclusive forces: rather, economic growth often means increasing environmental quality. Case in point:

John Hanger points out on his energy blog that energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have fallen so sharply in the first three months of 2012 according to new data from the EIA, that total CO2 emissions this year are on track to drop to the lowest level since 1991, see chart above.

The key driver for the “shockingly good news” that CO2 emissions will probably fall this year to a two-decade low according to John is “the shale gas revolution, and the low-priced gas that it has made a reality, especially in the last 12 months. As of April, gas tied coal at 32% of the electric power generation market, nearly ending coal’s 100 year reign on top of electricity markets (see related CD post on this energy milestone).  Let’s remember the speed and extent of gas’s rise and coal’s drop: coal had 52% of the market in 2000 and 48% in 2008.” …

There are obviously a lot of factors in play here — population, productivity, etcetera — which can account for a lot of the increase of the past couple of decades. But what’s up with the sudden dropoff? I’ll tell ya’ what: As time goes on, never-ceasing innovation and increasing technological efficiency mean that we’re continuously getting more bang for our buck when it comes to our natural resources. Recent technologies have given us the ability to take better advantage of our abundant domestic natural gas supplies, which in turn provides jobs and economic growth and diversifies our energy portfolio, all at the same time.

Natural gas, by the way, burns more cleanly than traditional coal. Take note, environmentalists: The free market provided a viable, affordable, practical substitute for coal, just by pursuing a profit! Who’da thunk it?