Carbon Dioxide Emissions Fall in U.S., Rise in Europe

Published March 1, 2008

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States fell by 1.8 percent in 2006, compared to a 0.3 percent increase in emissions in the European Union (EU), according to newly released data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The new data confirm the continuing success of market-oriented, voluntary greenhouse gas emissions programs in the U.S. versus European cap-and-trade mandates.

The stark difference occurred even though the two economies grew at a near-identical pace in 2006, roughly 3 percent for the year.

Consistently Strong U.S. Results

“It isn’t just 2006 which saw a disparity,” observed Chris Horner, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). “Under any relevant modern baseline, say 1997 when the Kyoto promise was made or thereafter, U.S. emissions have risen far more slowly than those of its noisiest antagonists whose model we are supposed to follow.”

“For the past seven years for which we have data (2000-2006), the annual rate of increase for U.S. CO2 emissions is about a third of 1 percent, compared to more than 1 percent by the EU,” Horner added.

“In what surely ought to confound the Europhiles in Congress, over the same period even the smaller EU-15 economy increased its CO2 emissions by more than 20 percent greater than the United States,” Horner continued. “Why we are supposed to swoon over the prospect of paying billions to replicate their failure is beyond me.”

EU Failures

While the European Union and environmental activist groups have frequently criticized the Bush administration for refusing to support the Kyoto Protocol, the 2006 data show the EU is failing to live up to its Kyoto promises. According to the European Environmental Agency, 13 countries of the EU-15 have increased emissions over the past 16 years.

Even in the United Kingdom, often cited as a greenhouse gas success story, recent data reveal emissions increased almost 20 percent over the past 20 years, after counting emissions from shipping, aviation, and the carbon content of imports.

“Even though global warming is nearly a religious commitment in Europe, greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster in the European Union than in the United States,” noted Myron Ebell, CEI’s director of energy and global warming policy.

“I think this shows that it’s not easy or cheap to reduce emissions, contrary to what many proponents of cap-and-trade legislation here claim,” Ebell said. “Mandatory controls are not working in the EU, so I think the rush in Congress to adopt their failing policies is foolish.”

‘All Pain, No Gain’

CEI Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis agreed. “As has been widely reported, EU governments allocated more emission credits than there were emissions to their large emitters so as to give domestic firms a competitive advantage vis-à-vis their counterparts in other EU countries,” said Lewis. “I think the old-fashioned term for this is ‘cheating.'”

Lewis continued, “One key fact that should be stressed is that gasoline prices in several EU countries exceed $7.00 a gallon due to high motor fuel taxes. Yet from 1990 to 2004, EU transport sector CO2 emissions increased by almost 26 percent. All pain for no gain.”

Drew Thornley ([email protected]) is a policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.