US Carbon Emissions Declining

  October 31, 2013

Today's tip of the day is about why US carbon emissions have declined to their lowest point in several years.

According to data from the Energy Information Administration (and reported in this story in Tree Hugger), carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels have dropped 11 percent in the US since 2007. Tree Hugger attributes the drop to "shifting market conditions, pollution regulations, and changing behaviors." But a huge part of the drop, according to the story, is also due to the increase in the use of natural gas for generating electricity. Burning natural gas to produce electricity releases about half the carbon emissions as does coal.

The increase in wind and solar have also played a role — but not a huge one. Even though installed wind capacity tripled and installed solar capacity increased 14 times since 2007, both still make up a very small portion of the US's energy profile — less than 10 percent, by most accounts. Some states, of course, are further along than others — California is up to about 26 percent of its energy generated by renewable sources.

The Solar Energy Information Association (SEIA) reports that the second quarter of 2013 was the second best in US history in terms of solar installations. (832 MW installed; the fourth quarter of 2012 is the pace-setter with 1,312 MW installed.)

More data from SEIA show that the cost of solar continues to drop, another reason for its continued growth. The average cost of an installed photovoltaic systems has dropped about 11 percent in the last year to $3.05 per watt. And the cost of a solar panel itself has dropped about 60 percent since 2011.

So it seems like we're moving in the right direction, if a bit slowly. There's still a lot of work to be done, especially in light of the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that showed that 800 scientists from all over the world are 95 percent sure humans are causing climate change.


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