Progress on global warming

Date posted: June 28, 2012

Greenhouse gas emissions, which are linked to global warming, are certainly a big issue in our country and the world. Do we appear to be making any progress with the problem? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.

“Well …, the U.S. Energy Department tries to do projections where these emissions are going to be down the road. And the bad news is that they’re projecting that greenhouse gas emissions will continue to grow both domestically and worldwide. But the good news is that based on some recent changes, they’re going to go up at a slower rate, according to the U.S. Energy Department, than they’ve been projected to have gone up.

“In fact, the rise is projected to be about 28 percent slower than it would have been. Question is, Why? Well, I think economics can help explain that. Number one, higher gas prices are actually motivating U.S. drivers to drive less. We’ve never seen that before. Year after year, we always saw people driving more. In last years, they’ve been driving less. And of course if you drive less, emissions are going to be lower.

“Secondly we’re seeing a conversion of how we produce electricity from moving away from producing that with coal, which tends to emit a large amount of gas emissions, to natural gas, which is a much cleaner fuel. That’s obviously also helping the emission issue.

“And then thirdly, … those coal plants that are being built are being built cleaner, reducing their emissions. So we are making some progress. There’s clearly an issue there. But we are starting to see some of these economic factors, I think, coming into play in helping us look at perhaps a cleaner environment down the road.”

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