This Earth Day, Look To The Free Market For Climate Answers - America's Future

April 22, 2020

Markets & Free Enterprise

This Earth Day, Look To The Free Market For Climate Answers

By: Kelvey Vander Hart

Today marks 50 years since the first Earth Day was recognized. It is a day normally used to advocate for climate change solutions, which usually means a call for increased government mandates and regulation. But, this Earth Day, it is time to turn not to the government but the free market as we seek to solve climate change. 

One of the leading ways the free market can help combat climate change is by expanding clean energy options. The energy sector is responsible for 27 percent of all carbon emissions in the United States. By increasing our reliance on clean energy sources, the United States could quickly begin curbing the emissions that help fuel climate change. So how can the free market play a role in promoting clean energy options? Through competition and innovation. 

Regulated state energy markets are prevalent in the United States. This regulation produces monopolies where consumers have few or no options in deciding where they will purchase their energy. In contrast, states like Texas that have deregulated energy markets encourage competition and provide options to consumers. Not only does this market-based competition allow consumers to shop around for the best rates, but it encourages consumers to look to renewable sources of energy.

When consumers start turning toward renewable energy sources, the market is incentivized to better deliver these sources. Fossil fuels currently still produce 63 percent of the electricity used in the United States, but new and innovative energy solutions could make that number start to drop. New battery storage technologies allow excess energy from periods of intense sunshine or wind to be stored and released when needed, and the development of the advanced small modular reactor could allow nuclear power to be generated in places that could never support a traditional reactor. These are just two of the innovative energy solutions that will spur increased alternative energy use in the coming years. 

But the free market is not just providing solutions that release fewer carbon emissions–it is providing solutions for increasing carbon capture. While legislation on this topic is debated at the state and federal level, the ‘restoration economy’ is working to remove carbon from the air by protecting and developing carbon sinks, natural ecosystems that absorb carbon and release oxygen like our oceans or forests. But adding on to what is already being done to bolster natural sequestration is the development of artificial forms of carbon capture. 

Carbon sequestration technologies have the potential to remove carbon dioxide from the air and keep it from ever reaching the atmosphere. These technologies can be implemented at key point sources, which are places like power plants, and can take the emissions created by the use of fossil fuels and allow them to be repurposed or safely stored. Fossil fuels are not going to be removed from our list of energy sources anytime soon, and their impact on the economy is massive; instead of looking to government mandates or economic sacrifices to lessen their impact, carbon capture technologies provide a market-based alternative. 

The list of the many ways the free market is working to fight climate change could go on for pages. This Earth Day, it is time for us to acknowledge that America’s innovative spirit will develop better climate solutions than big government will. Markets conquer mandates in the pursuit of a better planet.