Which is the Fastest-Rising U.S. Emissions Source: Transport or Electricity?

The climate change bills being considered by Congress treat electric utilities very well, giving more than a third
of the revenue generated by CO2 regulation away — for free — to power
providers. This move pleased coal country Democrats while seeking to lock down benefits for consumers by averting electricity rate hikes.

But did the focus on electricity generation tackle the fastest-growing source of U.S. carbon emissions? A new report released today by Environment America has the answer: Barely.

The
report tracks state-by-state progress in reducing carbon emissions. The
chart shown below depicts the national totals for emissions by sector
of the economy, with the fifth column from the left depicting the
percentage change between 1990 and 2007 and the sixth column depicting
the percentage change between 2004 and 2007.

emissions_chart.png(Chart: Environment America)

Electricity was indeed the fastest-growing producer of U.S. emissions
during both time periods, rising by 32 percent in the 1990-2007 period
and 3.4 percent during 2004-2007. But transportation emissions were a
strong No. 2, rising by 27 percent from 1990 to 2007 and 3 percent
during 2004-2007.

The
two columns on the far left show that during the last four years, U.S.
commercial, residential, and industrial emissions have decreased in
real terms while electricity and transportation emissions are on the
rise.

The report’s authors acknowledge that the period they
studied saw "very little" increase in vehicle fuel-efficiency
standards, which are set to rise
notably in the coming years. But considering that transportation
emissions are rising at such a healthy clip, it’s natural to ask
whether the Senate climate bill should set aside
more than 3 percent of its revenue for clean transport — and why the
House bill did so much worse, making its 1 percent allocation optional.

  • How building massive amounts of redevelopment infill in already high density cities per the edict of SB 375 is going to curb greenhouse gases is the question Sacramento never quite answered. The increase of electricity usage alone makes the idea seem absurd. Add to that the belief that people will somehow give up their cars because their new condo is next to a bus station truly is a leap of faith.

    But the real source of doubt here is the sanctioning of high density development in what are currently low density cities. Some of the small cities along the Gold Line being an example.

    That so many so-called advocates of public transportation have bought into this nonsense is discouraging. What we are seeing here is the power of the BIA and CAR style lobbyists in action, with the gullible buying in without raising a peep.

  • Eric,

    I fail to see how building infill housing leads to an increase in energy usage versus business as usual (greenfield). Attached housing has lower energy requirements because of shared walls and building infrastructure.

    All studies suggest the people drive less in dense environments near a regional destination with a diversity of land uses and transportation options. Only a subset of those moving into such developments will be car-free, but the presence of a car is not an indicator of 12,000 miles per year. Rather, each of those who move into these developments are highly likely to drive less than the regional average, and will certainly drive less than the greenfield development alternative.

  • More families being brought into an area will not result in the use of more electricity? Because they have a wall in common? Do tell.

  • The point is, however, that they are using less energy THAN IF THEY WERE LIVING IN TRADITIONAL SUBURBAN DEVELOPMENT. In other words, if a family chose to live in the center city, versus living in Moreno Valley and commuting work in Orange County, they would save a ton of energy, from less driving. This is despite the fact that city dwelling eats up some of the energy savings because of trucking of goods into the city – it’s more efficient for large goods to be carried by truck or train than for individuals to drive 2 miles for a gallon of milk. Even crappy “smart growth” suburban subdivisions like the Chino “Preserve” fail to save much energy because while you can walk around (the neighborhoods are extremely nice), you either have to drive to the nearest grocery store, or walk past the Women’s Prison to get food.

    If Southern California is going to generate 6 million more people in the next 25 years, they have to live somewhere. They can either live in the Antelope Valley or Riverside County; double and triple up into single family homes and apartments like in Pico-Union and Santa Ana; or live in modern yet dense housing.

    (Incidentally, one of the biggest problems with most condo development is the fact that the walls are too thin.)

  • Wad

    Calwatch wrote:

    (Incidentally, one of the biggest problems with most condo development is the fact that the walls are too thin.)

    This is going to be one of the more lingering “radioactive” side effects of the housing bubble.

    Because so much capital was tied up in real estate speculation, so many projects of inferior workmanship came online. Generally, anything built within the last 15 years will have this problem.

    The other big problem is the condos themselves. We made this same mistake in the first condo mania of the 1980s and didn’t learn from it.

    Condos make the most sense in areas where land is extremely scarce and demand is extremely high. Condos make a lot of sense in Honolulu and Miami Beach, for obvious reasons. Few areas in this country have this problem. In Southern California, you have an abundance of both single-family and rental housing to compete with the stock.

    The premiums were, and still are, egregious.

    The condos may pay off in the future, but they are going to be a drag on the economy at least for one generation.

  • See? It’s the issue nobody cares to address. If you pack more people into cities, energy use goes up. Energy production is the leading cause of greenhouse gas production. Read the article. The next leap of faith. People who move into the SB 375 rats’ warren of the future will somehow magically abandon their cars. Outside of a few reports generated by the usual interested parties, nobody has proven that one, either. I rode my bike (yes, I do that) past block after city block of newly constructed condo piles in Pasadena yesterday, and all I saw were traffic jams up and down the various avenues I peddled down. The Pasadena condo boom has produced ridiculous new levels of traffic in that town. And for some reason riding the 210 Trolly just doesn’t work for those folks.

    And then there is this rather pernicious lie. People who live in single family houses use more energy than a condo would sitting on that same lot. Which is, of course, nonsense. Turning low density cities into high density cities does nothing more than increase greenhouse gas emissions. Greenwashing for the BIA is beneath you, Calwatch.

    The real solution is developing technologies that produce less greenhouse gas emissions. Honda is now making great strides in its efforts to create a hydrogen powered car. And that, should it happen, will do far more to help control global warming than anything the planner elite and their bosses in the redevelopment game are peddling these days.

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