America’s fastest growing exports are the ones that destroy the planet

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The US exported $61.7 billion more goods and services in 2013 than 2012, shrinking the trade deficit by $63.1 billion, according to data released today by the US Census Bureau. As a portion of US GDP, the trade deficit shrank to 2.8% from 3.3%.

The shift reflects a resurgence in American manufacturing and fossil fuel extraction, as well as a healthier world economy, which created new opportunities for tourists to visit the US. This is good news for the US economy, but the growth in these sectors is also striking for its impact on the environment. Travel and energy services are the largest contributors to household carbon emissions, according to UC Berkeley.

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Foreigners spent 9.13% more getting to, from, and around America  in 2013—an increase of $15.1 billion. Americans traveling abroad spent 2.97% more for travel in 2013. Among the top 20 most common nationalities of tourists to the US, the fastest growing groups were Colombians, Venezuelans, Chinese, and Taiwanese. Tourists came from those countries at least 20% more often in 2013, according to the data through April from the US Office of Travel and Tourism Industries.

American civilian aircraft manufacturers delivered $11.2 billion more planes and parts overseas in 2013, up 11.85%.

Fossil fuel exports grew by the same amount, $11.2 billion. The growth was driven by a 43.7% increase in fuel gas exports (which included propane and natural gas) and 9% growth in non-crude oil exports.

The largest declines in export activity were with coal—which declined $3.7 billion (24.7%)—and soybeans, which (despite providing the foundation for record-setting exports in October) declined $3.15 billion (12.8%) on the year.