Good News On U.S. Carbon Emissions

At Copenhagen, President Obama pledged to cut carbon emissions by 17% by 2020 below 2005. According to Resources for the Future (RFF), the most respected think tank on energy issues, the U.S. is “on course to achieve reductions of 16.3 percent from 2005 levels in 2020.”  RFF identifies three contributing factors:  EPA regulations under the Clean Air Act, trends in relative fuel prices (especially cheaper natural gas) and energy efficiency, and state efforts. “Perhaps even more surprising,” according to the RFF study, “domestic emissions are probably less than would have occurred if the Waxman–Markey cap-and-trade proposal had become law in 2010.” A key reason is that Waxman-Markey relied heavily on offsets rather than emission reductions to achieve the cap.

The U.S. numbers are welcome news that should encourage other nations to keep their own commitments. They should also reinforce the importance of EPA’s regulations and of state efforts in California and elsewhere.

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Reader Comments

10 Replies to “Good News On U.S. Carbon Emissions”

  1. Don’t the three factors outlined by RFF ignore another huge component of the U.S.’s falling GHG emissions–prolonged recession and slow economic growth during this period?

  2. Don’t the three factors outlined by RFF ignore another huge component of the U.S.’s falling GHG emissions–prolonged recession and slow economic growth during this period?

  3. Luke–That’s certainly a factor in terms of current emissions, but the RFF numbers are model results for 2020, so the recession isn’t a factor.

  4. Luke–That’s certainly a factor in terms of current emissions, but the RFF numbers are model results for 2020, so the recession isn’t a factor.

  5. Did I miss something, or does the report only address carbon dioxide (rather than all GHGs as measured by some carbon dioxide equivalency)? As Ann has written, we don’t know enough about the methane emissions from gas production to say that shifting toward it is better, worse, or neutral for the climate. Perhaps RFF is being a little too optimistic.

  6. Did I miss something, or does the report only address carbon dioxide (rather than all GHGs as measured by some carbon dioxide equivalency)? As Ann has written, we don’t know enough about the methane emissions from gas production to say that shifting toward it is better, worse, or neutral for the climate. Perhaps RFF is being a little too optimistic.

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About Dan

Dan Farber

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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