US CO2 Emissions down 8%?

Lies? Statistical manipulations? US CO2 emissions (which comes primarily from fossil fuel use) down 8%? — I don’t think so! Just the usual WSJ editorial spin.

Take your pick. Under the vaunted Kyoto, from 2000 to 2004, Europe managed to increase its emissions by 2.3 percentage points over 1995 to 2000. … Meanwhile, in the U.S., under the president’s oh-so-unserious plan, U.S. emissions from 2000 to 2004 were eight percentage points lower than in the prior period.

— Wall Street Journal column, June 8, 2007, Bush 1, Greens 0, by WSJ editorial board member Kimberley A. Strassel

[UPDATE: reference to data for CO2 emissions from the EPA, US Emissions Inventory 2006. 1995 was 5325 and 2004 was 5988 in metric tons. That’s a 12% increase. The inventory lists every year from 1990 to 2004 there is no way shape or form that there was any 8% decrease]

According to EIA (Table 1-3 Annual Energy Review) fossil fuel consumption was ever-increasing from 77.49 quads (quadrillion Btu’s) in 1995 to 86.23 in 2004. That is an increase of ~12%. That doesn’t account for differences in a particular fuel’s carbon content, but a casual glance at Table 1-3 shows that natural gas (the least carbon intensive of the fossil fuels) use was flat, while both coal and petroleum useage were up more.

A more recent editorial (An Inconvenient Reduction, December 3, 2007) said “The Bush Administration announced last week that U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide fell by 1.8% from 2005 to 2006” (and GHGs overall were down somewhat less at 1.5% reduction). This is supposed to mean that a policy of doing nothing is superior to doing something. They go on to point out that for the period 2000 to 2005 U.S. carbon emissions were UP 2.5% vs. the EU-15 at 3.8%

I wonder what the per-capita emissions for EU vs US are? Since they (the WSJ editors) don’t want to talk about it, I’m guessing that EU is significantly below US. [UPDATE: yes, it is. At least a casual glance at the list broken down country-by-country. The large European countries all run something like 1/2(!) US’s emissions. The GDP-efficiency list is much the same story which is to say the United State’s economy is twice as energy consuming (CO2 emitting) per dollar of output.]

3 thoughts on “US CO2 Emissions down 8%?”

  1. You state that our fossil fuel consumption is up, therefore, our CO2 emissions must be up. That’s NOT the case & not a logical argument. Many institutions are placing better ‘scrubbers’ on their power plants, most noteably, the coal-fired plants out west where I am. Their CO2 emissions (among others) drop significantly, so even if they use 5% more coal, they emit less CO2.

    Shane, thank you for your comment — There *is* a process usually referred to as CO2 sequestration which would theoretically allow the consumption of fuel without adding CO2 to the atmosphere. But. It is not in commercial usage anywhere in the US, as far as I know. It is not at all clear this is even or will ever be commercially feasible, particularly in the US because the cost of dumping CO2 is FREE. Therefore, it is a true statement at this point in time that the more of a particular fuel you burn, the more carbon ends up in the atmosphere.
    There are and have been for years scrubbers that have very effectively reduced many toxic pollutants, especially the sulphur which if released into the atmosphere forms acid rain.
    It is worth pointing out that this was the result (a very successful result) of a government-mandated cap-and-trade program. So the free market worked very effectively; but only when confronted with the mandate.

    You also state: “This is supposed to mean that a policy of doing nothing is superior to doing somthing.”

    READ BETWEEN THE LINES — it ain’t hard!
    What they mean is this… I W-I-L-L S-P-E-L-L it out for you.

    Our industry leadership, science and technology is making it possible that we can be more “green” with less and less cost. Trust me, there are several options available out there that help reduce emissions and actually SAVE MONEY on maintenance because of it. Once the technology becomes cheap enough (getting there), and can actually SAVE $$ in the long-run, power companies will line up for these technologies.

    That’s how a FREE economy works. That’s what the WSJ was talking about.

    GOVERNMENT mandated plans almost never work, or cost much more than they need to by setting artificial timelines/limits.

    If you encourage (ie help) companies and others that provide these new, cleaner technologies (and get government out of their way), industry WILL provide the answers… and as you can see, that’s what’s happening. Not very fast, but then again, our population is up too by several million.

    And yes, we emit more per capita than Europe (I am guessing, but pretty sure about it.) OK, so what? You also forget that we make the steel that builds the world, we are the ones that spend plenty of energy creating food stocks that we ship around the world to feed hundreds of millions of hungry people. Our energy consumption also drives an economy that allows the US to be the most charitable nation on earth, improving the lives of hundreds of millions more.

    I bet that if you subtract the emissions that we emit producing either $$ or products that ‘help’ others, products they cannot make themselves and improves their standard of living, we’ll probably be near the average of the indutrialized nations. For instance, how many billions of $ and billions of tons of coal/oil/etc… were used in the creation of AIDS treatment drugs that we now give away in Africa? We give away an enormous amount of our production to others that are needy – we should not be penalized for that use of energy. We should be applauded for it!!!!

  2. Note to “someone”: My intention is not to defend Kyoto. My intention is to point out what seems to me to be very high emissions here in US. Your comments got me intersted in Norway — check out some comments I added about Norway at 25 Barrels a Day

    You may want to check your math and sources. I’ve spent a lot of time trying, so far unsuccessfully, to get some good statistics on the changes in emissions since the Kyoto Treaty. Figures are hard to come by and it seems like the world lost interest in updating statistics that might help around 2004 (which I think might be an interesting observation in itself).

    It’s easy to “prove” with the statistics that I’ve found that the the U.S. has outperformed almost all of the Kyoto Treaty ratifiers since the treaty was concluded. The EU countries in sum have much higher emissions growth since the Kyoto treaty than the U.S. It’s odd that no one seems to know about that.

    The U.S.’s position on that treaty was that they would not sign it because no one could realistically meet the targets agreed. Since nearly all the signatories have greater growth in CO2 emissions than the U.S., it seems that the U.S. negotiaters had a valid point.

    Where I live in Norway, one of the most vocal critics of the U.S. (which, as far as I can tell has had zero growth in emissions since 1998 which is the year after Kyoto), the emissions have doubled since the signature was placed on the treaty. No one here seems to no about it or care about it, but they bash the U.S. on emissions all the time, not realizing that Norwegians, in fact, have an almost identical per capita emissions figure as the U.S.

    One can easily start correlating CO2 emissions with a variety of other variables. An interesting one is population density. Countries like the U.S., Canada, Norway, etc. which have low population densities tend to use a lot of energy and create a lot of emissions. There are long distances to drive and public transport is not economical when the population is sparse.

    GDP – of course, rich countries use lots of energy. Up and coming countries have the highest growth of energy usage and emissions. Those who argue that emissions and energy usage must come down are dangerously close to saying that their economies must back up a few decades. The pain of that transition is real and ugly and I don’t think anyone really wants to see it play out.

    BTW, by all measures North Korea is a model of emissions control, but I don’t think anyone wants to emulate that unfortunate country. E.g. –

    P.S. You’re certainly right to suspect that the U.S. has not reduced emissions by 8%. Keep in mind, however, that the U.S. population grew by 12% between 1995 and 2004. At worst, that seems to imply zero emissions growth in the U.S. per capita which matches fairly well with the figures I can find..

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