Professor Obama chimes in on the "irreversible momentum" of clean energy, yet seems to indicate that future policy choices will influence our eventual energy path.
So, is the momentum for clean energy irreversible unless it is reversed? I'm not sure what I am being told here. Nor can I guess at his intent. If his goal is to take the pressure off Trump and talk the Hillary/Obama crowd in from their various window ledges, I suppose a "Trump Doesn't Matter" essay might make sense. or maybe he is hoping to persuade the international community of that notion.
Who knows? And, after checking the calendar, who cares? I'll guess at another motivation - since this paper is nicely foot-noted and appears in "Science", maybe Prof. O is hoping to snag another Nobel Prize on his way out the door. Bookends!
SINCE YOU ASK: NO, the word "fracking" does not appear. Waddya, kidding? He does acknowledge that US carbon emissions fell while the economy grew in part due to a shift to natural gas from coal, without using the five letter word:
Since 2008, the United States has experienced the first sustained period of rapid GHG emissions reductions and simultaneous economic growth on record. Specifically, CO2 emissions from the energy sector fell by 9.5% from 2008 to 2015, while the economy grew by more than 10%. In this same period, the amount of energy consumed per dollar of real gross domestic product (GDP) fell by almost 11%, the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of energy consumed declined by 8%, and CO2 emitted per dollar of GDP declined by 18% (2).
The importance of this trend cannot be understated. This “decoupling” of energy sector emissions and economic growth should put to rest the argument that combatting climate change requires accepting lower growth or a lower standard of living.
The IEA noted that “There have been only four periods in the past 40 years in which CO2 emission levels were flat or fell compared with the previous year, with three of those—the early 1980s, 1992, and 2009—being associated with global economic weakness. By contrast, the recent halt in emissions growth comes in a period of economic growth.”
The American electric-power sector—the largest source of GHG emissions in our economy—is being transformed, in large part, because of market dynamics. In 2008, natural gas made up ~21% of U.S. electricity generation. Today, it makes up ~33%, an increase due almost entirely to the shift from higher-emitting coal to lower-emitting natural gas, brought about primarily by the increased availability of low-cost gas due to new production techniques (2, 15).
Mysterious "new production techniques.
Obama also explains that public policy must continue to incentive businesses to improve their bottom lines by conserving energy, since businessmen (and women! Also, the gender-fluid) can't figure out for themselves that cutting costs and reducing the efficiency of their energy usage can improve the venerable bottom line. Yeah, I don't know why these business leaders are so foolish and short-sighted either, but thank heavens a former (and failed) community organizer is here to help straighten them out.