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May 12, 2010
Energy Information Administration Reports Steep Decline in US Emissions in 2009
    by Robert Kropp

Drop in energy consumption, mostly due to economic downturn, is led by energy-intensive sectors, but emissions will increase again if those sectors lead economic recovery.


The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported last week that in 2009, “energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the United States saw their largest absolute and percentage decline” since the EIA began tracking energy data in 1949. Energy consumption by the industrial sector declined by 9.8%, and output from energy-intensive sectors fell much faster, according to the EIA. Overall emissions declined by 7.0% in 2009.

Industrial growth continues to be led by companies in the information technologies sector, whose levels of GHG emissions are far less than those of energy-intensive sectors. Also, the long-term trend of growth in the service sector as compared to the industrial sector continued in 2009.

The primary reason for the sharp decline in emissions in 2009 was an underperforming economy. “The large decline in emissions was driven by the economic downturn,” said EIA Administrator Richard Newell. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during the period 2000-2009 increased by an average of only 1.6%, compared to an average of 3.3% between 1990 and 1999. During the earlier time period, emissions increased by 1.4% per year, compared to a decline of 0.9% per year during the past decade.

According to the EIA, “If energy-intensive industries lead the economic recovery, emissions would increase faster than if service industries or light manufacturing play the leading role.”

Despite the conclusions of the EIA, it’s hardly beyond the realm of possibility that climate change deniers seize upon the findings to support their position that climate science is a hoax.

AS the US Senate continues its struggle to craft a meaningful climate change bill, opponents include Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who has derided climate science on the Senate floor, going so far as to suggest that climate scientists “may have violated federal law.” Inhofe also described an igloo built by his grandchildren during a snowstorm last winter as “Al Gore’s new home.”

It now appears that climate scientists are striking back against those who seized upon errors in data compiled by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as evidence of a plot by scientists to advance a political agenda in an effort to obtain government grants.

In an
open letter published by Science magazine, the scientists called for “an end to McCarthy-like threats of criminal prosecution against our colleagues based on innuendo and guilt by association, the harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to avoid taking action, and the outright lies being spread about them.”

“Society has two choices,” the letter continued. “We can ignore the science and hide our heads in the sand and hope we are lucky, or we can act in the public interest to reduce the threat of global climate change quickly and substantively. The good news is that smart and effective actions are possible. But delay must not be an option.”

 

 
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