Senator Kamala Harris, Democratic vice presidential nominee, speaks during the U.S. vice presidential debate at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020.



Photo:

Kim Raff/Bloomberg News

Kamala Harris in Wednesday’s debate declared that Joe Biden’s Administration would make the U.S. “carbon neutral” by 2035—a more ambitious goal than even California has set—while at the same time disavowing plans to ban fracking for natural gas. We look forward to Mr. Biden explaining this apparent contradiction in the next debate, if there is one.

Meantime, it’s worth highlighting a new Energy Information Administration report that shows how fracking and competitive energy markets have done more to reduce CO2 emissions over the last decade than government regulation and renewable subsidies. Vice President Mike Pence made this point on Wednesday night, and he’s right.

According to the report, energy-related CO2 emissions in the U.S. fell 2.8% last year as many utilities replaced coal and heating oil with less expensive natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling has unleashed a gusher of natural gas production in the Midwest and Southwest. As a result, natural gas prices have plunged, putting many coal plants out of business.

CO2 emissions from coal declined by more than 50% from 2007 to 2019, the report notes, and by 15% in 2019 alone. Between 2016 and 2019 the share of electricity generated by natural gas rose to 38.1% from 33.7% and by non-carbon generation (including nuclear and hydropower) to 38.2% from 35.5%. Coal generation during this period plunged to 23.3% from 30.3%.

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House Democrats released an updated Heroes Act on Monday night. The new $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package includes much of what was in the original bill passed in May, though is notably about $1 trillion cheaper.

The legislation includes many popular provisions, including another round of stimulus checks to American families. House Democrats also restored the enhanced weekly $600 unemployment benefits that expired this summer.

In terms of education, the bill includes a number of important components. The CARES Act’s student loan payment suspension expires at the end of this month, though President Trump has extended it through the end of the year. However, the new CARES Act would extend the payment and interest pause through September 30, 2021. The House bill would also expand the loan relief to the borrowers with non-federally-held student loans under the old bank-based system.

The new Heroes Act would allocate a total of $225 billion to “support the educational needs of States, schools districts, and institutions in response to coronavirus.” It provides a total of $208 billion to the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund created by the CARES Act, with $175 billion for elementary and secondary schools and another $27 billion for public higher education. The money for higher education includes a portion for emergency grants to students.

The State Fiscal Stabilization Fund would also provide $4 billion for governors to address educational needs. Another $2 billion would be allocated for the outlying areas and the schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Education and Tribal Colleges and Universities.

Outside of the fund, the bill appropriates $5 billion to help ensure that school buildings can