U.S. New World Leader in Reducing CO2 Emissions
The U.S. has been criticized for not ratifying the Kyoto Treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Yet according to the latest International Energy Agency (IEA) report CO2 emissions in the United States in 2011 fell by 92 Mt, or 1.7% … US emissions have now fallen by 430 Mt (7.7%) since 2006, the largest reduction of all countries or regions .
One of the biggest reasons for the relative the drop is the widespread substitution of cleaner natural gas for coal and oil. I have written before about the vast reserves of American natural gas made available by new technologies, which is the biggest single positive energy development in my lifetime. The mild winter helped this year, but previous winters were cold. The economic downturn meant less consumption, but the downturn hit our European friends harder, and their emissions increased, evidently w/o regard for their signing of the protocols.
Actually the facts are a little worse than that and demonstrate the unexpected results of rules aimed at making things greener. Some of our European friends are resisting the use of natural gas widely available on the old continent because of the same fracking techniques that are revolutionizing energy in the Americas. With gas unavailable at the very low prices we are currently enjoying in America, when harder economic times come, people turn to coal, which is still cheaper.
Germany is also trying to phase out nuclear energy and shuttered eight of its 17 reactors after the Japanese disaster in 2011. These plants had total 12.3 gigawatts (GW) of capacity. Coal will step into this breach too. How much? To put this in perspective, the increased average annual emissions are the equivalent of 2.8 million U.S. cars. German use of coal will rise 13.5% in 2012 . Ironically, carbon "caps" have served as a floor rather than a ceiling. As the recession slowed energy demand, German industries and utilities were free to increase their use of dirtier fuels essentially to compensate for the decline.
Meanwhile rising energy costs are biting German consumers. These are all self-inflicted wounds and there are fears that electricity could become a luxury in Germany. But I digress.
The bottom line is that detailed rules never can anticipate all the circumstances that could make them obsolete and even counterproductive. I doubt anybody thought that measures meant to decrease carbon use could end up encouraging its use while driving up energy prices. Meanwhile who would have suspected that the U.S. would be the country that most reduced its CO2 emissions despite (because of?) its failure to sign onto Kyoto?
Maybe we should sign on to the darn thing and claim that we are really successful. Then we can blame others for not holding up their end. IMO, for many in the international chattering class, a reduction is not a reduction unless mandated by rules.
Posted by Christine & John at June 7, 2012 7:51 PM
“The mild winter helped this year…”
And according to NOAA we have been enjoying the warmest spring on record.
5.2 degrees above average.
Nothing to see here, move along.
The mild winter helped this year. But we are talking five years ending in 2011. The winter of 2009 and 2010 was very cold. The decarbonization of the U.S. economy has been going on for a long time. In fact, we began to do better (re lower increases) than the Europeans back in 2000.
Of course, our reduction mean little when the Chinese are increasing so quickly.
And as I have often written (by few people notice) in 2006 we reduced emissions. This was the first time any country had done this during a time of robust economic growth.
The U.S. economy is changing in its use of carbon. This is a natural evolution accelerated by the change to natural gas (which is the biggest thing in economics and energy in the oil embargo).
Beyond those things, as I pointed out, our Euro friends are actually ADDING carbon to their energy mix in their Quixotic attempts to be greener than they can be.
Shouldn’t America be the leader in this?
America uses about 30% of the worlds resources.
We are the world’s leader in technology aren’t we?
This should be a no brainer.
C&J, thanks for the report and your analysis. I too, am a huge fan of natural gas for all the reasons you cite. I am at a loss to understand why anyone would be critical of, or dismiss, the good news you reported.
We are a leader. We should get more credit.
Nobody seriously argues against natural gas. It is a cleaner fuel and abundant. That has been known for decades. It was the Ford and principally the Carter administration that put federal R&D resources and tax incentives in place to develop the vast known reserves in the US. It was a successful government-private effort.
The only argument against natural gas has to do with the environmental impacts of fracking techniques developed under the federal/private R&D efforts. The regulatory exemption in the 2000s for the gas industry was a mistake. Now, the EPA is conducting national testing and analysis of fracking impacts on the environment. There is the potential for bi-partisan support of national standards for gas exploitation in the near future. One can only hope for some sanity in the political wars.
As for your general point that the US has done far better than the Europeans and Asians, please. The US has a much higher per capita rate of emissions than Europeans or Asians. If you read the link closely, you would also find that China has made vast strides in reducing its emissions “China’s carbon intensity — the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of GDP — fell by 15% between 2005 and 2011.”
I am certainly not against natural gas, etc. but I also realize that if we spent the same amount of effort on reducing emissions as the Europeans and Asians, then we would be certainly the world’s leader in reducing those emissions.
“We are a leader. We should get more credit.”
Back in the ’90s I worked on several movies, two of which went into major distribution. When the movies came out, I specifically watched the credits, and I noticed that neither I nor the company I worked for got any credit for the effects we created.
When I asked one of the owners of the company why that was, his only remark was that “he’d rather get paid”.
I have to admit I was ready to “bask in my own magnificence”. Seeing my name in the credits would have been a big deal at the time. After the conversation with my boss I realized that I had been paid, and that should be enough.
It is one thing to accept credit gracefully when it is given, it is quite another to expect that credit.
The payoff is that we in America have cleaner skies, and cleaner air to breathe. Sooner or later other countries will come on line, and that will be to America’s credit.
Doing good deeds is it’s own reward.
Nowadays, all the people are exposed to the advertisement of luxurious products, and everyone knows something about the top brands that are famous all over the world. So they usually know that where and when to purchase famous brand handbags on sale to avoid spending too much money on those bags.
We have to put up with a lot of crap from countries that do a much worse job than we do.
The problem is that lots of pseudo-environmental (the Greenpeace types) groups use the U.S. as a means to raise money. This is more than just an annoyance. It tends to mis- allocate resources and end up making the world MORE not less polluted.
When attacking a problem, it is a good idea to go after the most urgent and/or the most important aspects. We need to recognize the bad, but also the good.
You probably know that I do not think highly of Kyoto. This shows why. The Germans benefited from the fall of communism and had “extra” carbon, which they are now using. The ceiling has become a floor.
Hey, I have an idea: why doesn’t the US pay huge amounts of money in carbon taxes so that the money can be redistributed to 3rd world countries?
Why don’t we create a make believe GW hoax as a reason for the carbon taxes?
Why don’t we pump little heads of mush full of GW warming crap in the public school system?
Why don’t we run around crying “we’re all gonna die” and why don’t we let a psycho like Al Gore be the leading spokesman?
Why don’t we shut down all fossil fuel production and close coal mines, put thousands out of work, prevent the building of new coal fired power plants and have a president who says to the American people “your energy prices are necessarily going to double/triple”?
Why don’t we use corn for ethanol additive and cause the price of food to go sky high and cause people to starve in 3rd world nations?
Why don’t we raise the price of all food and products do to the high cost of shipping them because of the high cost of fuel; and then why don’t we say that food and fuel do not qualify as a reason for a higher cost of living; thereby not giving working and retired Americans a COLA?
Oh, we have already done all these things. Well, thank you Socialist Democratic Party for all of these improvements in our environment.
The evidence shows that the earth’s climate is warming and I believe that human activity is affecting it. It is unlikely that human activity is the only reason. Earth has warmed in the past and there is no such thing as an “ideal” or stable climate. You can see that my opinions here manage to annoy both the right and the left.
The big question, however, is what to do about it. I have no confidence in the capacity of the UN or big international agreements to adequately address the problem. Kyoto was a stupid agreement and I still blame Al Gore for signing on to something he must have known could not work and would set the U.S. up for a lot of trouble.
A carbon tax, however, does not require international cooperation and does not mean giving anything away. We could have a carbon tax only in the U.S. The proceeds could be used to lower other taxes. Of course, I understand that we might not be able to trust politicians to do that.
The purpose of a carbon tax is NOT to raise money. It is to change incentives in the energy mix. Carbon has external costs not captured by the prices we pay for the product. Charles Krauthammer proposed that we replace the payroll tax with a tax on carbon. I think that might be workable.
One thing we do need to do is perhaps raise gasoline taxes AND make sure they are used only for the building and maintenance of highways, bridges etc.
There is a big difference between investment and consumption expenditures. We get them mixed up and politicians actively try to blur the distinctions. Infrastructure is generally a good investment. Not all infrastructure is or should be built by government, but government has a major role.
C&J, I wrote a lengthy response and somehow lost it; but I will simply respond with this. How many aspects of our lives, how many taxes and proposed taxes, how many laws have been passed on a scientific consensus? A consensus that has not been proven and is losing scientific support each year. As I said, this is the first time in history and scientific fact is proven by “consensuses” instead of research. There was a time in the history of the world when the consensus was that black people were sub-human…was it true, or did science prove that blacks were equal to any other race? Just because the media supports scientific organizations that get all the tax dollars, it does not make it true.
I have often argued that GW is the new religion of the left, to the denial by Stephen Daugherty and others:
“Conversely, President Obama can find a physics Nobelist to suit his policies. I recently interviewed Burton Richter, a physics Nobelist making a big push for a climate-friendly energy revolution, but also had an e-mail exchange earlier this year with Ivar Giaever, a winner of the physics Nobel who sees pronouncements of dangerous human-driven warming as more religious than scientific. Giaever confirmed his view, writing:
“I participated in a panel discussion in the Nobel meeting in Lindau in 2008 where I said the global warming has become a new religion. Please see the statement from the American Physical Society where it is stated: The evidence is incontrovertible; i.e. it can’t be discussed, just like religion. The [society] will discuss the mass of a proton for example, or negative energy, but global warming is incontrovertible…. We have gone through this before: the acid rain used to be a big problem, then the ozone hole took over and Freon is no longer used for refrigeration which costs you dearly, and now finally we have global warming to worry about. But there is NO unusual rise in the ocean level, so what where and what is the big problem?”
From above link. The Obama administration has wasted billions of dollars on green energy, of which America would completely shut down if we were depending on green energy. This is a religion of the left, it is what they worship, and it is the means to justify their ends, which is total control of our lives. Farmers and ranchers are targeted for the crops and cattle they raise. Contractors and home owners and builders are targeted for violaion of EPA rules. The very fossi fuels that America needs to survive is attacked by the EPA, the strong arm of Global Warmist goals.
IMO - President Obama’s green energy program has been a failure. We don’t disagree. I also agree that the EPA can get out of hand and can regulations on land use.
My advocacy of a carbon tax is based on the simplicity of it. It encourages alternatives to fossil fuels w/o any direct intervention. It also can be a “one country only” solution. All governments have tax policies. I would prefer to have this sort of consumption tax in place of a more complicated tax on income and/or subsidies given to favored industries or groups.
I am not hysterical re global warming, but I do see evidence that it is happening. As I said, this is certainly not the first time we have seen changes in climate. The world was warmer in 1100 than it is today. But I think it makes sense to be prudent. Fuels high in carbon tend also to be dirty in other ways. For example, coal emits about 3x as much CO2 as natural gas and it also more polluting in other ways.
But let’s assume that global warming is not happening at all. Many people still believe that it is. The nuttier among them want to attack most parts of our modern society and they use global warming as a club to advocate global income redistribution. Advocating a carbon tax steals their issue. Many of them are actually against this kind of tax because it may mitigate the perceived problem while leaving intact the free market system. But they dare not oppose it openly. In many ways, a carbon tax is the nuclear option against radical environmentalist who want to leverage environment to attack the free market.
So I support carbon taxes because I think they will work, are easy to administer and they preempt more activist governmental approaches.
You notice too that now that the U.S. is doing well in the reductions business, many of the radicals are moving on. In 2007, China passed the U.S. as the world’s biggest CO2 producer. It is much less fun for them to attack China.
You may recall that Greenpeace always bothered the Norwegians or the Japanese, but left Soviet whaling ships alone. It is the same principle involved as to why animal rights advocates throw red paint at little old ladies in fur coats, but leave alone motorcycle gangs dressed all in leather.
yes, that is true. It shows the cowardice of these groups. The problem with any new tax is that it never replaces a previous tax; it is simply added on. I like the idea of a consumption tax as an alternative to Fed Income Tax; but we would end up with both. Politicians of both parties are liars and only agree with their constituents when it is election time. Any movement toward signing an international GW treaty will only result in the US paying the bulk of the taxes. The UN will expand on it by pushing for US restitution for using the bulk of the world’s resources, even though it is not true. Obama would sign a GW treaty, selling us out, and a global gun ban with the UN, in a heartbeat if he could. So I say, leave us alone, no taxes, and prove to us that man is causing GW and that man can also cool the earth. It’s all BS.
On of the rotten things Clinton did before he left office was to sign Kyoto, knowing full well that it could never be ratified by the Senate and would be a sore point for his successor.
Anyway, I think it is safe to advocate a carbon tax. I actually believe in it, but if you want to look at the cynical point of view, it calls the bluff of all those pseudo-environmentalist who just like to harp on the problem and it ups the ante to a place they don’t want to go.
A couple years back, I advocate a carbon tax on this blog. Many of our leftist friends complained that it would “hurt the poor” etc.
Kyoto was a “sore point” for Bush? Why not simply name the person who followed Bush? You know. George W Bush. Republican. The most conservative president in history. Kyoto was not merely a “sore point” for Bush, because he was a Denier. It was not until the end of his second term that George W Bush, Republican and conservative, ostensibly changed his thinking.
A carbon tax? The American public has no appetite for any action addressing Global Warming. Indeed, the greatest concern seems to be doing whatever is necessary to lower the price of gasoline- preferably by increasing supply. A large percentage of Americans are either unsure about or deny the existence of Global Warming? The biggest factor causing the uncertainty and denial comes from right wing radio, especially Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, et al, with virtually all of the material provided by the fossil fuel industries. There is no alternative hypothesis, just efforts to cause enough uncertainty to prevent action.
It is true that natural cycles have caused periods of warming and cooling. Those cycles can be matched with astronomical cycles- changes in the Earth’s orbit, tilt, and so on. Those historical cycles are understood. None apply to the situation today. In astronomical terms, we are in a neutral period for warming and cooling. Good luck convincing the American public. 18% believe the sun revolves around the Earth.
At some point, you turn to magic to justify your opinion about Global Warming. Let’s check and see where magic enters the field.
1) Do you think Earth is @ 6,000 years old? (concepts: geologic time, geology, paleoclimatology)
2) Do you think the Earth revolves around the Sun? (concepts: Tilt, precession, orbit, milankovitch cycles)
3) Do you think Carbon Dioxide is a greenhouse gas? (concept: chemistry)
4) Do you think burning fossil fuels adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere? (concept: chemistry)
5) Do you think the observatory in Hawaii is making up those numbers showing rising Carbon Dioxide? (concept: viability of scientific data)
Explain the magical thinking, billinflorida. Before declaring a worldwide socialist conspiracy, there must be some fundamental flaw in the science that makes it possible to resort to magical thinking in the first place.
phx8, “changes in earth’s orbit, tilt”; would you like to provide proof of this statement? And when did this happen?
Kyoto was just a dumb idea. If your goal was to reduce CO2, it didn’t work. And as we see now, the U.S., a country that did not ratify Kyoto, is the leader in reducing CO2 for the last five years.
Re carbon tax - unless you put a price on carbon, you will never encourage fewer CO2 emissions. This is the dishonesty of many environmentalists. They demand reductions in CO2, but resist anything that would actually make it happen, instead insisting on some sort of hypothetical clean and cheap power source, a goal talked about for a generation but manifest nowhere.
phx8, “changes in earth’s orbit, tilt”; would you like to provide proof of this statement? And when did this happen?
I’m just curious, did you take any science courses in high school/college?