Thursday, March 31, 2011

U.S. Carbon Emissions Plunge

After reclaiming leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives and strengthening its influence in the Senate, the Republican Party has relentlessly challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to regulate greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions under the Clean Air Act. Although Republicans are less inclined to molest trees than their Democratic counterparts, they insist that they are not “anti-environment” but “pro-economy.”

Unfortunately, for people like myself who believe that there is a compelling business case for protecting the environment, data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration today showing that U.S. GHG emissions dropped a whopping 5.8% in 2009 will likely reinforce the perception that profligate pollution is good for economic growth.

This is the largest percentage decline in total U.S. GHG emissions on record.  The reason emissions fell off a cliff: Gross Domestic Product declined by 2.6%.

In 2009, the U.S. economy emitted 6,576 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e), nearly 6% below the level of emissions for 2008, according to Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States 2009. The impact of energy consumption on this number is even more stunning. In 2009, emissions of energy-related carbon dioxide decreased by 7.1% – after rising at an average annual rate of 0.8% for nearly two decades, which is twice the annual rate of increase for the total growth in U.S. GHG emissions during the same time period.

“The large decline in emissions in 2009 was driven by the economic downturn, combined with an ongoing trend toward a less energy-intensive economy and a decrease in the carbon-intensity of the energy supply,” said EIA Administrator Richard Newell.

The energy intensity of the U.S. economy, measured as energy consumed per dollar of GDP (Energy/GDP), fell by 2.2% in 2009.  The carbon dioxide intensity of U.S. energy supply (CO2 per unit of energy) in 2009 also dropped as a result of lower natural gas prices relative to coal.  The third major factor driving the fall in emissions was the rise in renewable energy consumption, led by wind and hydropower.

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Publisher and/or Author and/or Managing Editor:__Andres Agostini ─ @Futuretronium at Twitter! Futuretronium Book at