Economy Grows, Emissions Slow – But Who Gets the Credit?
Americans are consuming less energy even as they do more.
US News & World Report, February 9, 2016
By Alan Neuhauser
Even as America's economy has expanded 83 percent in the last 25 years, the amount of energy we've consumed has increased by just a fraction of that amount – fodder for Big Oil and environmentalists to each claim victory about the dueling roles of entrepreneurship and regulation.
In fact, in the past 15 years, the amount of energy the country uses each year has remained more or less level, according to analysis in Bloomberg New Energy Finance's "Sustainable Energy in America Factbook" for 2016.
This figure is known as energy productivity, and it's another indication of how U.S. economic activity is becoming decoupled from the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change – in other words, that we're getting more energy efficient.
Oil and gas companies often point to figures like these to argue against new environmental regulations and emissions limits. The economy is already reducing greenhouse gas emissions on its own without government interference, they argue, and thanks to booming production of cheap natural gas – which burns far more cleanly than coal – U.S. emissions are at their lowest point since the 1990s.
"Our system of government working in combination with our long tradition of entrepreneurship and distinct innovative spirit has led to world-leading reductions in carbon emissions, now at near 20-year lows," Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, said in his annual State of American Energy address in the nation's capital Jan. 5. "Our nation's emissions are lower as a result of greater use of clean-burning natural gas."