US carbon emissions hit lowest point since Nirvana was top of the charts

April 5, 2013
Obsession
Energy Shocks
April 5, 2013

US carbon emissions from energy production last year hit the lowest levels since 1994, according to a report today from the federal Energy Information Administration:

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Carbon emissions have now declined every year since 2007 save for 2010. The start of that period coincides, of course, with the great recession. The economic slowdown reduced energy needs as well as prompting more energy efficiency; but you can also thank the natural-gas boom that began around the same time, and which has shifted electricity production from carbon-intensive coal to cleaner and cheaper natural gas. That should cheer environmentalists (and just about everyone else save the Koch brothers), as the trend is likely to continue, courtesy of a glut of natural gas and emissions regulations that make building new coal-fired power plants a dicey proposition.

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An unusually warm winter in 2012 also helped reduce demand for heating fuels—another trend that’s likely to continue as climate change accelerates. The great American love affair with the automobile also cooled last year as demand for transportation fuel helped lower emissions.

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