How to be Green: Emissions

US Leads the World in Emissions Cuts

Not possible I hear. Foul! You can hear the cries from the other side of the blogosphere already. America is figuring out how to be green?

Fact: The US has cut more emissions than any other country or region since 2006. That is true. In fact…

The International Energy Agency says, “US emissions have now fallen by 430 Mt (7.7%) since 2006, the largest reduction of all countries or regions.” This decrease has been fueled mainly by the drop in the price of natural gas, a slow economy and increasing purchases of more fuel efficient cars, not by the actions of politicians. Though it must be said that the states of California, Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington have all enacted laws or set policies on global warming pollution reduction targets. This is good news, not enough and not fast enough perhaps as the EIA article points out, but a sure sign that the US is starting to take greenhouse gas reduction seriously.

There is a good article on the topic at Clean Technica and another one with very good analysis of the possible reasons for this. Also read Grist where David Roberts points out that 112 coal fired power stations have been retired (or converted to natural gas) with “only” another 410 to go. He also points out that the picture is in fact better than the facts above would have you believe, because renewables, especially wind are growing at a decent pace in some states. While far from an irreversible direction yet, the trend for the short term is clear and positive.

Imagine if we could just enact emissions reduction targets at a government level how much faster that would push an already receptive business environment towards reductions.

Expenditures on energy amounted to about 8.8% of the US GDP in 2006 according to the Institute for Energy Research. Reductions made on energy consumption will directly and positively affect our international competitiveness, never mind making an impact on bringing down the national debt. The less we can spend on energy over the long term, especially if we can get ahead of the curve with respect to renewables, the more competitive our cost of living will become. But beware, we are getting ahead of ourselves. Right now the USA is definitely not in the lead as far as the implementation of renewable energy is concerned.  The full report on the same page is even more interesting especially as concerns the potential growth that micro grids and roof top solar can produce. The Rocky Mountain Institute has done studies on Home Solar and identified areas that need innovation that would create affordable solar and start to turn it into the biggest industry in the world while radically changing the energy landscape in the process. The UK has proposed Emissions cuts per sector already and they include actions to be taken in the home. In this respect, the US has a long way to go before we might feel inclined to brag about our reductions and plans to reduce energy consumption from carbon sources and green house gas emissions. It feels like there is still so much work to do, that just being ahead in an area that is not developing nearly fast enough to make the change that is needed is hardly exciting news.

Nevertheless, we should celebrate every win as it encourages more positive activity.

Read more:
Efficiency, understanding what consumes your energy and water and what your waste stream looks like.
Is an LED light bulb worth the upfront cost?
Do you have a road map to living green?