10% drop in greenhouse gas emissions since 2005
The EPA announced that greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 were 6.5% less than in 2011, and 10% below emissions in 2005.
The decline over the previous year was driven mostly by power plant operators switching from coal to natural gas, improvements in fuel efficiency for transportation and a warmer winter that cut demand for heating, according to an inventory released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The analysis shows the nation released the equivalent of 6,526 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, the lowest level since 1994.
The annual inventory tracks emissions of planet-warming gases across all sectors, including electricity generation, transportation, industry and agriculture. It also calculates the amount of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere by natural “sinks” such as trees and soil.
About 82% of the nation’s greenhouse emissions in 2012 were carbon dioxide, the main pollutant causing climate change. The inventory also accounts for other heat-trapping gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide.
Total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. were on the rise until about 2007, when they started to trend downward, the report shows.
The EPA inventory is a national overview of greenhouse gas emissions going back to 1990. The data is reported to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
A January report by the U.S. Department of Energy found that carbon dioxide emissions in the nation’s energy sector rose about 2% in 2013 after years of decline. The report attributed the uptick to power plants bucking the trend toward natural gas and burning more coal to generate electricity last year.
The natural gas boom is driving a reduction in emissions for most greenhouse gases while moderating the increase in CO2 emissions. Another reason for the slight increase in CO2 was the improving economy -- the poor performance of which also contributed to the decline in carbon emissions from 2008-11.
It should be noted that these declines are not due to any government intervention but businesses making decisions in the marketplace that natural gas is less expensive than coal and over the long term, will be a more viable energy source. If, as expected, the EPA issues new rules on coal fired electrical plants, making power generated from our most abundant natural resource obsolete, this trend in greenhouse gas reduction is liable to continue.
But at what cost? The destruction of the coal industry will have far reaching effects on the economies of regions that are already struggling. The loss of tens of thousands of jobs - sacrificed on the altar of green energy - will devastate small towns and cities in states like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. A GOP Senate in 2015 could try to head off these rule changes, but unless enough Democrats join them to override an Obama veto, it won't do any good.
A large price to pay for a small decrease in a gas that the EPA has ruled is "poison."