U.S. Carbon Emissions Fall to Lowest Level in Two Decades

A new report indicates that carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. have fallen by 13% in the past five years. The last time carbon emissions were this low, Ace of Base was topping the charts and "Pulp Fiction" was reviving the career of John Travolta.

Suzanne Goldenberg discusses the findings of a report compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) for the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE), which attributed the drop to "new energy-saving technologies and a doubling in the take-up of renewable energy."

"As described by Bloomberg, the US is in the throes of a major shift in energy production. Coal fell to just 18.1% of America's energy mix last year, down from 22.5% in 2007. Oil use also declined." At the same time total energy use fell. "Most of the emissions cuts were due to installing more efficient heating and cooling systems in commercial building. Other cuts in emission came from transport, with 488,000 Americans last year opting for hybrid and plug-in vehicles."

"By the end of last year," she notes, "America's emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions had fallen 10.7% from the 2005 baselines."

"The reduction in climate pollution – even as Congress failed to act on climate change – brings America more than halfway towards Barack Obama's target of cutting emissions by 17% from 2005 levels over the next decade, the Bloomberg analysts said."

Full Story: US carbon emissions fall to lowest levels since 1994



A misleading article

An overly rosy article: Certainly non-hydro renewables share of electricity generation increased from ~2.5% in 2009 to ~5% in 2012 but electrical generation represents perhaps 30% of total emissions from within US borders so the gain from renewables might be a bit under 1% for the 2009-2012 period and a bit under 2% for the 1994-2012 period. I suggest the fuel switch from coal and oil to natural gas accounts for much more of the decline in US emissions per unit of energy employed than the doubling of non-hydro renewables in electrical generation from a tiny base. And the world as a whole may not have gained from the fuel switch in the US -- coal exports from the US to Europe increased dramatically 2009-2012 and your European poer producers shifted from gas to coal (See Financial Times Feb 4 "Last Gasp').

I also suggest a significant slice of the apparent 6.4% reduction in energy use 2007-2012 is from off-shoring of manufacturing -- the US imports increasing amounts of embodied emissions and if these embodied emissions were counted in the US emissions total the picture would change dramatically.

And as far as I can tell US residents international flying emissions plus marine emissions resulting from US trade are excluded from consideration. Including those emissions will change the picture somewhat.

And I further suggest that the apparent reduction may be not real -- it's unclear how much fugitive methane is released by fracking.

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