The Calm Before the Storm

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from U.S. power plants dropped 3.1 percent in 2008, tempering a steady increasing trend in recent years. In contrast to the one-year decline in emissions, power plant CO2 emissions have risen one percent since 2003, and 4.5 percent since 1998, according to new data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The overwhelming consensus of the world’s scientific community is that urgent measures are needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 80 percent over the next four decades. The Obama Administration has proposed a plan to reduce emissions by 83 percent (froom 2005 levels) by 2050, through cap-and-trade regulations. The Administration has proposed an interim short-term goal of a 14 percent reduction in emissions by 2020.

This data may be helpful as policymakers identify the states and specific power plants that warrant heightened attention as the nation grapples with the shift to a carbon-constrained energy future.