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On February 17, 2011, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its latest report on greenhouse gas emissions. The Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2009 says emissions were down 6 percent in 2009 compared to 2008 but only because the US economy was down and low natural gas prices caused fuel switching from coal to gas.  The good news is 2009 emissions levels are about the same as 1995 levels.  The bad news is they are still 7.4% above the 1990 levels the US EPA wants so expect government pressure to continue unabated since the average annual increase in US emissions is 0.4% since 1990.

This draft report was posted for public comment for thirty days.  The final report will be submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Yes this is the same group that failed in Copenhagen and again in Cancun to get the developed and developing world to see eye to eye on a new set of emissions goals.

So what?

Inventorying greenhouse gas emissions and reporting them publicly is a good idea.  But as the results show there are many factors beyond the control of governments or individuals that can have a dramatic effect on emissions levels.

The failure of the COP15 conference in Copenhagen was that China, India and other fast developing countries refused to commit economic suicide by slowing their economic growth in order to reduce emissions.  By Cancun a year later a much weaker global economy resulted in many more countries concluding that China was right and no treaty was agreed to again.

By 2011 the political climate of the whole world has changed as a result of the global recession, financial crisis among the PIIGS, America’s huge deficit, and China’s growing volatility.  Nations and markets worldwide crave stability and a return to “normal” more than political correctness so the last thing they really want is to pile on with a new emissions reduction regime that makes the economy worse.

PS:  Memo to the US EPA: More of that coal we are NOT using in the US is now being exported to China which is still ravenous about lining up future energy supply to keep its economy going since a crash in China is not in any nation’s interest.  It also follows that if it takes reductions in our economy MORE THAN we’ve just survived in the great recession to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions to levels acceptable to our government then the answer is to change our government and our policy!

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