Going Green Moments

U.S. cuts greenhouse gases despite “do-nothing” Congress.

by CNN Money

Despite there being no real effort by Congress to address global warming and America’s longstanding reputation as an energy hog, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are falling.

The lackluster economy has something to do with it. But it doesn’t fully explain what’s happening. Consider that even factoring in a stronger economy, forecasters see greenhouse gas emissions continuing to fall.

It’s possible the country may meet its pledge to reduce emissions 17% by 2020. Some of the reductions can be attributed to executive decisions taken by the Obama administration to curb pollution from power plants and other sources.

Investments in energy efficiency have also helped, along with state rules requiring utilities to purchase power from renewable sources. But the main and most surprising reason: cheap natural gas.

Natural gas prices are so low largely thanks to hydraulic fracturing. Known as fracking, the process uses sand, chemicals, water and pressure to crack shale rock and allow the gas to flow.

While the practice has raised fears over ground water contamination and other issues, it’s unleashed an energy boom in the United States that’s taken gas prices to their lowest levels in a decade.

That’s allowed utilities to replace some coal-fired power plants with ones that run on natural gas — which emits about half as much pollution as coal.

The numbers are fairly impressive. The United States has cut carbon emissions from its energy sector by about 9% since 2007, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

All this has been accomplished without the cap and trade law Congress fiercely debated in 2009. A 17% reduction from the United States by 2020 is roughly what the failed U.S. cap-and-trade bill was expected to achieve.

But that bill was also expected to bring about an 80% reduction by 2050 — the level scientists say is necessary to head off potentially catastrophic impacts from climate change.

Natural gas is only so clean, it won’t produce those kinds of cuts. Plus, emissions from the developing world haven’t begun to be tackled.

In order to meet the goal of cutting greenhouse gasses by 80% the world needs more solutions for today and beyond 2020 as well.

CNN Money

Baby steps into the right direction? We’ll take it