Bush declares victory on climate change

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions dropped in 2006, says the Department of Energy. So what's the big worry?


Andrew Leonard
November 29, 2007 4:06PM (UTC)

On Wednesday, President Bush pronounced himself "pleased" to receive the latest statistics on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from the Energy Information Administration. Emissions fell by 1.5 percent in 2006, as compared to 2005, said the agency, which Bush touts as a proof of how "seriously" and "effectively" the United States is facing up to the challenges of "energy security and climate change."

The EIA's 62-page report can be found here.

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I have not read the full report, but if you're the kind of person who grooves on learning that the amount of carbon dioxide generated by the consumption of "motor gasoline" rose from 1,182.2 million metric tons (MMT) in 2005 to 1,186.2 MMT in 2006 while that generated by consumption of jet fuel fell from 246.3 MMT to 239.5 MMT, then have at it. For our purposes, and provided we suspend our habitual sense of disbelief and accept the statistics at face value, the most interesting paragraph is the one summarizing why, overall, greenhouse gas emissions fell.

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2006 were 110.6 million metric tons (MMT) below their 2005 level of 6,045.0 MMT, due to favorable weather conditions; higher energy prices; a decline in the carbon intensity of electric power generation that resulted from increased use of natural gas, the least carbon intensive fossil fuel; and greater reliance on non fossil energy sources.

Call me partisan, but I'm finding it difficult to credit the Bush administration with responsibility for a year that featured both a mild winter and a cool summer. And while one can put some blame on the White House for high energy prices, the administration has actually fought tooth-and-nail against any kind of carbon tax or cap-and-trade system that would ensure stiff energy costs for greenhouse gas generating fossil fuel consumption. I'm also skeptical of the notion that "greater reliance on non fossil energy sources" has yet made any significant impact on emissions. Indeed, the EIA's own data have carbon dioxide emissions attributable to "renewable fuels" rising from 11.6 MMT to 11.9 MMT.

Which leaves us with the switch from coal to natural gas for electricity generation. I don't know the whole story of how that transition is playing out, but one major incentive has been the New Source Review requirement of the Clean Air Act, which was designed to encourage the phasing out of older, high-polluting energy-generating technologies.

Of course, the Bush administration attempted (and failed) to gut New Source Review.


Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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