While it’s quickly becoming apparent that the earth’s climate sensitivity probably isn’t nearly as cataclysmic as various eco-radicals have insisted for decades now, many greenie types maintain that we still need to be focusing on reducing our carbon emissions — so the dead-set opposition to the hydraulic fracturing technique that often helps produce natural gas is just a little bit bizarre.

On Friday, the Energy Information Administration reported that carbon dioxide emissions fell once again in 2012, bringing the United States’ emissions levels down to a two-decade low. The main culprit? The increasing availability and use of natural gas made possible by fracking, of course:

Graph of annual light bulb sales, as explained in the article text

Energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2012 were the lowest in the United States since 1994, at 5.3 billion metric tons of CO2 (see figure above). With the exception of 2010, emissions have declined every year since 2007.

The largest drop in emissions in 2012 came from coal, which is used almost exclusively for electricity generation (see figure below). During 2012, particularly in the spring and early summer, low natural gas prices led to competition between natural gas- and coal-fired electric power generators. Lower natural gas prices resulted in reduced levels of coal generation, and increased natural gas generation—a less carbon-intensive fuel for power generation, which shifted power generation from the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel (coal) to the least carbon-intensive fossil fuel (natural gas).

It’s yet another piece of evidence that environmental quality and economic prosperity are not mutually exclusive, even on a large scale; the innovations, efficiencies, and technological developments that come with an advanced economy can be good for both humanity and the planet.