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After several years of decline, carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. are on the rise. That's according to a new report out today. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel has more on what it could mean for the planet.
GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: Here's the upside of an economic downturn. Greenhouse gas emissions also go down. Factories are using less electricity. There are fewer trucks and planes shipping goods and people. And that's exactly what happened after the financial crisis of 2008. Carbon dioxide emissions plummeted.
They've been bouncing up and down since then, but last year, the economy was on a roll. Output was up. And now an estimate by the Rhodium Group, an independent research firm, shows that CO2 emissions were way up.
TREVOR HOUSER: It appears based on preliminary data that emissions in the U.S. grew by the highest rate since 2010 when we were recovering from the Great Recession.
BRUMFIEL: Trevor Houser is an author on the new estimate. He says carbon dioxide emissions are up roughly 3.4 percent over last year. The big drivers were increases in electricity demand, which burns natural gas and coal, and big growth in trucking and aviation.
HOUSER: All those Amazon packages, all those holiday vacations...
BRUMFIEL: That come with a booming economy. Now, there were some areas where decisions by government and industry made a difference. A record number of coal-fired power plants closed in 2018, and emissions from passenger automobiles dropped slightly due to better fuel economy standards. But it was not enough, and Houser wants more aggressive policies to drive down CO2.
That seems unlikely for now. Policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions started under the Obama administration are now being halted and even reversed under President Trump.
HOUSER: What we've seen is backsliding in federal policy, and we're starting to feel the effects of that now.
BRUMFIEL: So is Houser rooting for another recession to bring emissions down again?
HOUSER: I (laughter) - I am not. I am not. Over the long term, short-term emissions decline as a result of a recession is not something anyone's cheering for.
BRUMFIEL: What's needed, he says, is a strong economy and the right incentives to invest in green technologies. Geoff Brumfiel, NPR News.
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