U.S. Carbon Emissions at 20 Year Low

Climate change is here and the effects are being felt all over the world.  In the U.S., the summer of 2012 is shaping up to be the warmest and driest on record and many are finally connecting the dots between a changing climate and their daily life.  Add to this U.S. carbon emissions are at a 20 year low and one could begin to think an environmental revolution was about to take place.   Note that while this is indeed good news, the reason why is not the greenest.

According to a rather quiet report by the U.S. Energy Information Agency, the displacement of coal for natural gas is a big reason for this drop in domestic carbon emissions, as natural gas burns “cleaner” than coal with respect to CO2.  The report states that “while conservation efforts, the lagging economy and greater use of renewable energy are factors in the CO2 decline, the drop-off is due mainly to low-priced natural gas.”

Reducing CO2 is important, but it’s important to realize that natural gas is still a fossil fuel. Lest we forget, the process of extracting natural gas is under fire for potentially poisoning groundwater and using hundreds of undisclosed chemicals to release the buried gas, a number of which are known carcinogens. Natural gas also releases methane, which is another potent greenhouse gas.

If this is the case, even if the U.S. sees its carbon emissions lower, the aggregate level of greenhouse gases will continue to increase. Furthermore, natural gas should not be the knee-jerk reaction to weaning off coal and should not act as a substitute for clean, renewable energy sources.  In fact, there is growing concern that cheap natural gas is distracting from greener energy R&D. According to two experts from Colorado’s Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute: ”Installation of new renewable energy facilities has now all but dried up, unable to compete on a grid now flooded with a low-cost, high-energy fuel [natural gas].”

So, while U.S. carbon emissions may be at a 20 year low, the reason why isn’t very comforting.  Sure, the end goal is important and we all want to bring carbon levels back to a balanced, sustainable level, but we really should be investing in long-term, clean and renewable energy sources, not continued reliance on fossil fuels, no matter what form they take.

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Photo Credit: PO3 Patrick Kelle


Frans Badenhorst
Frans Badenhorst6 years ago

nice to hear and congratulations then

Brian F.
Brian F6 years ago

The republicans are to blame for Global warming and the destruction that is taking place on our planet. Republicans allow the dirty oil, coal, natural gas, and nuclear industries to continue to pollute and destroy our earth for profit. No one on earth is more dirty and evil than a republican, who would allow our enviroment to be destroyed for the money they get from the dirty fossil fuel industry.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

The ONLY obligation of any for profit corporation is to maximize shareholder profits, quarter by quarter forever. This lowers their time horizon to 3 months, maybe 12 months at most. Bad scene. Since BIG BUSINESS including the fossil fuel industry now OWNS the federal government, the only slim outside chance of stopping global warming from destroying agriculture is to spend at least twice as much as anyone believes is fair to BUY the transition from fossil fuel to sustainable energy by BUYING enough sustainable energy capacity to replace fossil fuel at the present rate of consumption and GIVING that capacity as a gift from the taxpayers to the fossil fuel firms to replace their fossil fuel energy products AND also BUYING from the fossil fuel firms ALL their fossil fuel reserves so they don't have to explain to their shareholders why the entire market value of their stock has to be written off as obsolete inventory. With all the surplus CO2 eq. of greenhouse gas already in the environment from fossil fuel already burned, we will also need to capture and store CO2 and get down to the 300 ppm CO2 eq. normal for interglacial warm spells, in order to save agriculture from global warming. A lot of money to spend on a lot of high-tech attempt at undoing the fossil fuel disaster. There is a bill before the House of Representatives to authorize the U S Treasury to issue Clean Energy Victory Bonds to finance this much-needed transition, which will probably cost between $1 and $2

Michael Kirkby
.6 years ago

Natural gas may have contributed to lower emissions but at what cost in other venues to the environment due to the process of fracking? Scalar wave energy is still the best way to go.

Michael C.
Michael C6 years ago

Let us see, carbon emissions are at a 20 year low, so is industrial output, next question, that was too easy.

Oh gosh, who was it that released that tidbit, Oh yes, the Department of Energy and we all know they would never lie to the public.

Is this the same Agency that set forth on a long study about Global Climate Change (GCC) and when the study revealed facts that were not what Bush Outhouse wanted, they quashed the report. I know, it should have stated White House, but Outhouse seemed appropriate, Right.

Then there was the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a scientific intergovernmental body, set up at the request of member governments of the UN.
Opps, hard to refute real scientists, isn,t it.

Then there were the whistle blowers at the Dept. of Energy, who chose to jeopardized their jobs and pensions to reveal the truth.

Yes, I for one, feel compelled to trust the veracity of this news release. After all, if you can't trust those bureaucrats in Washington...who else could you trust. Bugs Bunny, perhaps.

Duane B.
.6 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Gene Jacobson
Gene J6 years ago

"So, while U.S. carbon emissions may be at a 20 year low, the reason why isn’t very comforting. Sure, the end goal is important and we all want to bring carbon levels back to a balanced, sustainable level, but we really should be investing in long-term, clean and renewable energy sources, not continued reliance on fossil fuels, no matter what form they take."

All THIS proves is that there is NO safe way to burn fossil fuels for our energy needs. What we have set in motion, and for this we have to thank the 1% though in the beginning they could not have known what they were doing was so incredibly damaging to the ecology, or the ecosystem of the planet, they do know though and have for 20 years. It is just that they don't care, they put dollars before people and always will. Until there are no more people to sell out as the planet will have chewed us up and spit us out as unfit for stewardship or inhabiting what was once a beautiful blue oasis in space. For this we have to thank the modern generation of robber barons bankrolling the vapid and immoral republican party and their cohorts around the planet. Those that COULD do something, or try, won't, because money is far more important to them than the ecological death of the planet.

Emily S.
Emily S6 years ago

Seems like we should not give up in pushing for more renewable energy resources. Something has to be done!

Jennifer C.
Past Member 6 years ago

Thank you.

Phillipa W.
Phillipa W6 years ago

thanks. Nice to hear, but it's far too early to celebrate. Not just the US, either. Still much to be done worldwide.