It’s too early to break out the Champagne, but you might want to start icing down the bottle.
U.S. carbon emissions from electricity-generating power plants dropped 3.8 percent in 2012, to their lowest level since 1994, according to the federal government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA). The United States hasn’t won the fight to reduce carbon emissions yet, but it’s headed in the right direction.
That recent reduction is not an anomaly: energy-related carbon emissions have declined in five of the last seven years, for a 12 percent reduction between 2005 and 2012.
The U.S. decline appears to be part of a long-term trend due primarily to power plants increasingly switching from coal to cheap and cleaner-burning natural gas -- which emits about half the CO2 that coal does -- and to a shift from a manufacturing economy to a service economy, which needs less energy to produce its products.
In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) keeps pushing regulations that make it increasingly difficult and costly to use coal.
And that reduction trend may accelerate. While power plants are the primary source of carbon emissions, vehicles also play a role. The widespread availability of cheaper and cleaner natural gas also explains why there is a growing effort to shift long-haul trucks to natural gas instead of diesel fuel.
Engine manufacturer Cummins has begun building and shipping big-rig engines that run on natural gas. And United Parcel Service (UPS) intends to expand its fleet of 18-wheelers that run on liquefied natural gas (LNG) by nearly 800 percent by the end of 2014, according to the New York Times.
Transportation consultant Karl Ziebarth thinks the trucking industry will have largely shifted to natural gas within five to eight years. He notes another reason for the shift is being driven by EPA regulations that require new pollution-control technology that’s driving up the price of diesel engines. Challenges remain, including the need for a refueling infrastructure, but he says the growing demand will likely induce truck stop operators to make the needed investment.