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Last week the EPA released an interactive map which allows the public to track the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the United States. Naturally, the EPA trumpeted the virtues of this achievement as though the world had never seen the like of it before.
“Thanks to strong collaboration and feedback from industry, states and other organizations, today we have a transparent, powerful data resource available to the public,” — USEPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Gina McCarthy said in a prepared statement,
From the EPA’s statements and the mainstream media’s gushing reaction one would be tempted to think that there’s something remarkable and new about this data. There isn’t. The EPA has been tracking greenhouse gas emissions for over two decades now, both issuing detailed annual reports and making the data available on their website.
The new interactive map arises from mandatory greenhouse gas reporting that the Agency initiated in 2009. Wait a minute, you’re thinking, how did the EPA gather greenhouse gas emission data for “over two decades” if reporting just started in 2009? Well, the EPA doesn’t actually need sources of greenhouse gas emissions to self-report. The EPA can get that data readily enough through the Energy Information Administration, state-level emissions reports and a variety of other data sets. This is exactly how they’ve been able to compile detailed greenhouse gas emissions reports for more than two decades.
So what then is the point of making larger sources self-report and then calling them out in a specially designed interactive map? Call me a cynic, but the answer is this: if global warming alarmism is a branch of the religion we know as environmentalism, then greenhouse gas self-reporting is the equivalent of confession. The EPA doesn’t actually require power plant and industrial operators to begin their reports by murmuring “Bless me Gaia, for I have sinned. It has been one year since I reported my shameful emissions”, not yet anyway.
Many in the mainstream media used the occasion to renew calls for greenhouse gas reductions in the US. The Washington Post’s Brad Plummer hoped that publicly calling out big greenhouse gas emitters would shame them into making cuts. The green side of the blogosphere was largely hysterical upon learning that burning coal to generate electricity and make steam results in emissions of greenhouse gases that require the use of many zeros to adequately characterize. “As promised by the EPA, the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions are now mapped for all to see, and it’s not a pretty sight,” blogger Bill DiBenedetto raved in a post.
It’s strange, but amid all the finger-pointing and the fear-mongering, neither the EPA, media nor environmental groups have addressed the two important questions that goes to the heart of this clash between US energy and environmental policy: Has the United States been reducing its greenhouse gas emissions? and, Will we continue to do so? You will probably be surprised to learn that the answer to both questions is an emphatic “yes”.
EPA’s own data tells the story. Net greenhouse gas emissions peaked at about 6,500 million tons in 2000. Since then, overall emissions have dropped to about 5,600 million tons, a reduction of fourteen per cent. While some of that reduction is attributable to the economic downturn, a good portion of it is the result of a variety of regulatory initiatives that are forcing coal-fired power plants to shut down or repower with natural gas, that are forcing states to use more renewable sources of energy and a variety of other initiatives at the state, regional and national levels. This trend will continue, whether the EPA or the environmental groups choose to acknowledge that fact or not. From Renewable Portfolio Standards to regional cap and trade programs to the EPA’s all-out war on coal, the race away from fossil fuels will only accelerate in the future.
As a confirmed skeptic with regard to mankind’s influence on our climate, I don’t think that’s a wise course to follow, but the fact is that’s where we’re headed. So before you alarmists out there use this latest EPA “revelation” as another excuse to call for yet more action in the name of addressing “climate change”, perhaps you should take a moment to educate yourself on all that’s been done and will be done to combat this particular boogeyman.