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Climate Change

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

1:53 PM PST on November 12, 2009

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.

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