Thursday, February 17, 2011

Carbon Hope II

2009 carbon dioxide emissions fell 6 per cent from 2008 levels, according to the EPA.  In turn 2008 totals fell from 2007 levels, making it 2 years of falling emissions.  EPA said the 2009 economic decline PLUS a shift from coal to cleaner natural gas were the major causes of the 2009 decrease. 

The 2009 carbon dioxide emissions fell back to 1995 levels.  Moreover methane emissions (a potent heat trapping gas) are now 5% below 1990 levels.

Discounting these 2009 numbers as a product of a near depression is tempting.  But see earlier post "Carbon Hope?" for reasons to be more hopeful.

Economic growth resumed by the third quarter of 2009.  America will have had 7 straight quarters of economic growth by April 1st this year.  More is at work than the 2008 near Depression reducing demand and energy consumption. 

Zero carbon and low carbon fuels are gaining market share.  Natural gas is displacing coal. 40,000 megawatts of wind generation is now operating.  Energy efficiency is increasing across the economy.

Yet what is sobering is how the atmospheric concentration of heat trapping gas marches on toward 450 ppm and even 500 ppm.  But for this day let's be hopeful.


  1. I truly believe that if America would really get serious about investing in development and building of renewable energy it would be like Detroit in the 1950s when Americans became wealthy enough/cars became cheap enough for it to revolutionize the way Americans travel.

    This is the energy revolution.

    Just as people will always need to travel (in a car) people will always need to use electricity. If we as a country got serious about being the leaders in this sector it would be a huge boon in manufacturing and exports, two of the most often lamented problems with the way the American economy has changed over the past 50 years.

    The problem? The oil/gas lobby of course that can and will always mobilize their huge corporate profits to protect their business. And an uninformed public that sometimes prides itself on being ignorant.

  2. Matt:
    You are right. America could lead. And it would be transformative, especially with a commitment to end oil imports within a decade.

    In the meantime, the Chinese are serious about clean energy and invested $51 billion in the sector in 2010. Their goal is to manufacture this technology and sell it to the world. They have an economic model of public-private partnerships on steroids and are using it to increase global market share.

    And what is our response? Clean energy is becoming a political football, with the Wall Street Journal editorial page and other conservatives attacking it while President Obama pushes it forward. Fortunately conservatives like Senator Grassley and Governor Brownback remain strong supporters of clean energy.

    The race has just begun. America can still lead the world in clean energy if we can sustain sensible policy and help our businesses win the global competition.