JR: Back in May 2009, Climate Progress predicted that U.S. CO2 emissions had peaked (see “I predict U.S. carbon dioxide emissions peaked in 2007!“). Of course, I had been thinking the U.S. would pass the Waxman-Markey climate and clean energy bill putting a price on carbon, “which will lead to steadily declining coal emissions.”
Ironically, one of the reasons I thought the U.S. would pass a climate bill is that, as I wrote the following month, “unconventional natural gas makes the 2020 Waxman-Markey target so damn easy and cheap to meet.” I didn’t imagine natural gas would become so darn cheap it would get us so far to the 2020 target without a carbon price. I stand by my original prediction, “that U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions will never exceed 2007 levels.” I believe this country will have a carbon price within a decade, and maybe considerable sooner if we are homo “sapiens” rather than, say, brainless frogs.
Uber-blogger David Roberts has a chart-filled discussion of some key trends underlying the drop in CO2 emissions over the past 5 years — and why few folks outside of the blogosphere are talking about it. It is reprinted in full below with permission.
U.S. leads the world in cutting CO2 emissions — so why aren’t we talking about it?
By David Roberts, via Grist
Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. is making progress on climate change.
We have cut our carbon emissions more than any other country in the world in recent years — 7.7 percent since 2006. U.S. emissions fell 1.9 percent last year and are projected to fall 1.9 percent again this year, which will put us back at 1996 levels. It will not be easy to achieve the reductions Obama promised in Copenhagen — 17 percent (from 2005 levels) by 2020 — but that goal no longer looks out of reach, even in the absence of comprehensive legislation.
Why isn’t this extraordinary story a bigger deal in U.S. politics? You’d think Obama would be boasting about it! Turns out, though, it’s a little awkward for him, since several of the drivers responsible are things for which he can’t (or might not want to) take credit.
Awkward: that whole recession thing
For obvious reasons, boasting about the environmental benefits of the recession is not something Obama’s eager to do.
The second big driver is the glut of cheap natural gas, which is currently trading at the 10-year low of about $3 per million British thermal units. This is absolutely crushing coal, the biggest source of CO2 in the electric sector:
The share of U.S. electricity that comes from coal is forecast to fall below 40% for the year, its lowest level since World War II. Four years ago, it was 50%. By the end of this decade, it is likely to be near 30%.
Here’s U.S. electricity generation from 2000-2012. Look how dramatic coal’s recent plunge is: