The Agenda

Brad Plumer on Plummeting Emissions

Brad Plumer has written an insightful post summarizing a new report from the Energy Information Administration on the rapid decrease in U.S. CO2 emissions, and suggesting that it strengthens the case for a tough climate bill. But first he observes that the decline in CO2 emissions isn’t just about the economic slump.

Is that all due to the economic slump? Nope. Only about one-third of the drop is from the recession. Another third is due to the U.S. economy getting more energy efficient—probably a response to the sky-high oil prices in the summer of 2008. And the other third is due to the fact that electric utilities are switching to cleaner energy sources. Power companies are swapping out dirty coal for natural gas (which emits about half the CO2), in part because new discoveries of the latter have caused prices to drop. Renewable power is also gaining ground.

Impressively, this has happened in the absence of an expensive climate bill that would impose a variety of new taxes and fees. Plumer continues:

Right now, the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill would try to cut greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. But we’re already more than halfway there—and it’s quite likely we’ll drop a bit more even without a bill. So there’s no good reason why Congress can’t craft a much more ambitious carbon cap. The EIA report suggests that meeting that target would be pretty easy.

Could it be that this rapid progress suggests a different approach towards climate strategy, one that places a heavier emphasis on low-cost initiatives like managing urban heat islands, more effectively addressing methane emissions, and perhaps a very modest fee-and-dividend program, for the reasons Jonathan Adler has described

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

Most Popular

Film & TV

A Right-Wing Halloween

‘The world is not a dark and evil place,” insists an exasperated woman played by Judy Greer in Halloween. “It’s full of love and understanding!” I put the question to the class: Is she right? In the new film (not a reboot but a sequel that occurs 40 years after the events in the 1978 original and ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Blackface Party

I must have missed something: Was there some kind of all-hands white-people meeting at which we voted to kick the Democrats out? Elizabeth Warren, Rachel Dolezal, Beto O’Rourke — what’s up with all the ethnic play-acting? Isn’t cultural appropriation supposed to be a bad thing among progressives? Isn’t ... Read More

The State of the Race for the House

Way back in January, I went through the then-34 seats where a Republican incumbent was retiring and concluded that most were in deeply red districts and not likely to flip to Democrats. Pollsters and media organizations are less inclined to conduct surveys of House races, both because there’s less public ... Read More