Sunday, April 15, 2007

USA still a Developing Country

The international politics of carbon cuts has always been a simple function of whose ox is growing. Germany and Britain say it is easy because it is easy for them, for reasons that have nothing to do with climate policy. Little things like North Sea gas (Brits) and the collapse of the Soviet Union (what do we call the German's these days? Merkles).

Canada and Japan, whose emissions have grown with their modest economies, are on board, doing nothing, and hope it will all go away when Kyoto runs out in 2012, a distinct possibility.

The US is adamantly opposed to mandatory cuts because it is growing like a developing country, which happily it still is, developing that is. The 400 year old miracle.

In fact reading between the turgid lines of the latest DOE emissions report shows that the still prospering USA is developing much faster than usually reported. It is usually reported that US emissions are about 20% over 1990 levels (the base year for Kyoto targets). Cutting back that 20% increase is of course an enormous job, but it doesn't sound all that big to people who do not understand energy, which is everybody within 50 miles of DC, plus the entire press corps except Ken Maize.

The fascinating fact is that this 20% increase includes the local USA version of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Specifically the fact that US industrial emissions have not increased at all since 1990, because our heavy industry is dead in the water or on its way to China. Industrial emissions, including electric power consumption, have actually gone down a fraction of a percent since 1990. Goodbye manufacturing industry, hello services. Yankee ingenuity is flipping burgers.

This interior statistic means that the other segments of society, the ones who are supposed to cut emissions in future, are growing like gangsters. Residential energy use (ban the bulb!) is up about a whopping 32%. Commercial use is even higher, at 35%. These two sectors together roughly matched industrial emissions in 1990 but now are much more. Then there is transportation, which is up about 25%. That is all there is worth counting. 20% is a low ball illusion.

The bottom line is that US carbon emissions are growing like a developing country should and only the transition from heavy to service industry masks this fact. Capping or cutting these prosperous emissions means reversing what the economists call a fundamental trend. It is no wonder we never see a serious analysis of what it would take. No one would take it seriously.

The Washington Pest


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