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Reason Foundation

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Down as White House Negotiates Caps

Samuel Staley
July 21, 2010, 1:47pm

One of the least publicized facts about domestic greenhouse gas emissions is that they have been falling in the U.S. for years. Now a study from the Netherlands Environmental Asessment Agency confirms this trend. As Wendell Cox notes in his report on newgeography.com:

"Per capita GHG emissions fell 16% in the United States from 2000 to 2009. This is half again as large as the 11% reduction in the highest income portion of the European Union (EU-15). Among EU-15 nations for which data was provided, per capita GHG emissions were down 14% in the United Kingdom, 12% in France and Italy, and 11% in Germany. Spain, where economic reality is forcing a reduction in support for its highly touted "green" energy program, reduced per capita GHG emissions by little more than one-third the US rate, at 6%. The Netherlands achieved a 3% reduction."

Of course, some of the issue here is scale: the U.S. consumes a huge amount of GHGs. But that makes the rate of decline all the more impressive. And the down economy helped as well. But, the U.S. saw a leveling off and slight decline in GHG's even before the recession.

On a global level, the NEAA notes that no improvement has been made in worldwide emissions because India and China have continued to grow, become wealthier, and consume larger quantities of just about everything (including oil and coal). According to the NEAA press release:

"Despite the continued economic crisis, global emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, have remained constant in 2009, as strong increases in CO2 emissions from fast-growing developing countries, such as China and India, have completely nullified CO2 emission reductions in the industrialised world."

And the U.S. didn't even need the Kyoto Protocol to achieve these reductions.

That hasn't swayed the White House. Climate Czar Carol Browner was deep in negotiations with domestic utility representatives to craft a last minute deal that would save cap and trade legislation this year. While legislation may seem dead for now, don't count it out yet.


Samuel Staley is Research Fellow


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