I am predicting that U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions will never exceed 2007 levels. We have peaked.
The United States appears to be in the process of breaking its long-standing link between economic growth and global warming pollution. I am, of course, assuming in my prediction that the United States will enact into law serious energy and climate legislation, along the lines of Waxman-Markey, sometime soon.
What would have been almost impossible to imagine even a year ago is now, I think, a pretty safe bet thanks to a unique confluence of factors. Indeed, the main reason I’m able to make this prediction with such high confidence is the Energy Information Administration’s remarkable, if little noted, report from last month, Updated Annual Energy Outlook 2009 Reference Case Reflecting Provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Recent Changes in the Economic Outlook. It was Figure 3 that blew me away:
Yes, the EIA itself, which is incredibly conservative from a forecasting perspective, doesn’t foresee CO2 emissions returning to 2007 levels until 2024! But, of course, that post-2020 return to steadily rising emissions is exceedingly unlikely to happen — thanks to peak oil and action by President Obama and Congress on energy and climate legislation.
Remember, EIA only models the “no further energy and climate policy” case and the “no peak oil” case, so the only thing one can say for certain about an EIA forecast is that there is no chance whatsoever it will come true. Indeed, the main drivers for the EIA’s latest forecast change are just: