Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Weak Economy Puts U.S. Halfway to Obama’s CO2 Cut

Eco-freaks may find this encouraging, but for the rest of us, this is a taste of things to come. It is not that the weak economy caused a smaller carbon footprint; the smaller carbon footprint, associated with massive reductions in productivity, caused the weaker economy. They moved all of our factory and production jobs overseas, and we have nothing left to build a recovery on.

    Bloomberg -

    Carbon dioxide output from the U.S. energy sector has already fallen half as much as needed to meet the 2020 emissions reduction target the Obama administration took to the Copenhagen climate-change summit.

    Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions will be 5.45 billion tons this year, or 8.6 percent below the 2005 level of 5.96 billion tons, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said today.

    Before United Nations talks on a new global emissions treaty started yesterday in Copenhagen, White House officials said the U.S. is willing to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases “in the range of 17 percent” below the 2005 level by 2020.

    Falling U.S. emissions are the result of the “weak economy,” which grew at an annual rate of 2.8 percent in the third quarter after shrinking for a year, and a cleaner fuel mix in the electricity sector, the EIA said in its December Short- Term Energy Outlook.

    After falling 6.1 percent this year, energy-related CO2 emissions should increase 1.5 percent next year on “projected improvements in the economy,” EIA said. This would put 2010 emissions at 7.2 percent below the 2005 level, making the 2020 target harder to reach relative to the 2009 total.

    Obama Pledge

    The Obama administration’s 17 percent greenhouse-gas reduction pledge is based on cap-and-trade legislation being debated in Congress. Under cap-and-trade, the federal government would create a limited number of carbon dioxide permits that could be bought and sold on a market. To enforce reduction targets, fewer permits would be issued over time.

    In June, the House passed a bill that would cut emissions from power plants, oil refineries and other industrial sources 17 percent below the 2005 level by 2020. In the Senate, a similar bill with a 20 percent cut is stalled and won’t get a vote until spring at the earliest.

    The EIA’s projections for carbon dioxide output this year show the U.S. is already “very close” to the proposed emission cuts and Congress should pass the cap-and-trade legislation, Jeremy Symons, a senior vice president with the Reston, Virginia-based National Wildlife Federation, said.

    “These new emission numbers strengthen the case for setting a strong target now to further reduce emissions because it will accelerate investment in clean energy technology and create jobs,” Symons said by phone. Between 2000 and the start of the recession, the economy grew much faster than emissions, which shows “our economy can grow without increasing pollution,” he said.

    Cap and Trade

    The EIA’s predicted 1.5 percent increase in CO2 emissions next year as the U.S. economy emerges from the worst recession since the Great Depression means that Congress should reject the cap-and-trade proposals currently under debate, Keith McCoy, a vice president at the Washington-based National Association of Manufacturers, said by phone.

    The U.S. economy depends on fossil fuels and forcing industry to obtain a permit for each metric ton of carbon dioxide produced from burning coal, oil and natural gas could hinder the recovery, McCoy said.

    While environmentalists say cap-and-trade legislation will create “green” jobs through the development of carbon-free energy sources, such as wind turbines, more “brown” jobs that depend on fossil fuels will be lost, he said.

    “The very nature of cap-and-trade is to make fossil fuel more expensive,” McCoy said. “All jobs should be factored into the equation, not just green jobs.”