Decline in Carbon Emissions Unlikely to Continue

  • Susan Phillips

Saul Loeb / Getty Images

The smoke stacks at American Electric Power's (AEP) Mountaineer coal power plant in New Haven, West Virginia, October 30, 2009. Three years ago the plant had celebrated the launch of a pilot carbon capture program with funding from the Department of Energy. But the second phase of that project has been cancelled.

Recent headlines have celebrated the reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. But a new report out today by the nonprofit research center Climate Central says the decline will be short-lived unless major changes occur in the energy economy.

“A Climate Central analysis of the American energy economy shows that the nearly 9 percent reduction in annual carbon emissions in the U.S. since 2005 is unlikely to continue in the years ahead without major departures from the ways energy is currently produced and used.”

The decrease in carbon emissions resulted from a poor economy, increased natural gas production, a reduction in coal-fired plants, and an increase in the use of renewable energy. But the report says the greatest factor was the recession.

“Consequently, as the economy rebounds the fall in emissions is likely to be neutralized or overtaken by growing population and incomes that will drive increased demand for energy-using appliances, air conditioners, TVs, personal electronic devices, cars, and other amenities.”

The report concludes that the reduction in emissions advocated by climate scientists won’t come by the goal of 2050 if the country continues to make little progress in energy efficiencies and renewables. Climate Change says President Obama’s new fuel efficiency standards won’t provide enough reduction in CO2 emissions, and the report predicts increased natural gas prices, which will tilt energy generation back to coal-fired plants. To read the full report, click here.