Report: Clean Energy Initiatives Cutting Emissions Nationwide

Mar 19, 2014

Credit Environment Massachusetts

A recent report shows the United States has taken a chunk out of its carbon dioxide emissions over the past seven years as a result of actions and policies.

Noting the United States is responsible for more human-caused carbon pollution than any other nation, the report, titled “Moving America Forward,” looks at the results of federal, state and local policies adopted or implemented from 2007 to 2012. According to the report, in 2012, the U.S. reduced carbon dioxide output by 162 million metric tons. That equals yearly emissions from 34 million vehicles or all the cars and trucks in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and Colorado combined. Ben Hellerstein is a field associate with Environment Massachusetts, one of the agencies behind the report. He says the commonwealth has a history of bipartisan leadership in addressing climate change, and that those initiatives are spreading.

“What’s really encouraging about the last couple of years is that we’re starting to see the rest of the country catch on,” Hellerstein said. “In fact, President Obama’s climate plan which was announced in June of last year, the center piece of the plan is a limit on carbon emissions from power plants which is a policy that was first created in Massachusetts more than ten years ago. So if we can see more and more states and the federal government follow our lead on clean energy and energy efficiency then I think we have a real chance of fighting back the worst impacts of global warming.”

President Obama and the EPA are yet to take significant action on a plan to cap carbon emissions for new and existing power plants, which power companies say would lead to significant costs to comply with. 

“We’ve seen an 85 percent increase in extreme snow and rain events in Massachusetts and the rest of New England over the last 65 years as a result of global warming,” Hellerstein said. “If we don’t take action soon to cut our global warming pollution, we’re going to see that get a lot worse. So really now is the time for us to be doubling down on our investments in solar and wind energy and energy efficiency to make sure we can get as much clean energy on the grid as possible.”

The report finds in 2012, clean car programs across 13 states reduced emissions that equal the impact of taking 8 million cars off the road. In 2013, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont joined four other states in announcing an initiative to install hundreds of public charging stations for electric cars and setting a goal of putting more than 3 million zero-emission vehicles on the road. With transportation emissions accounting for a large portion of carbon pollution, Hellerstein says clean energy goals need to extend beyond individual transit.

“I think you’re right that we’re going to continue having cars in this country for a long time and so we need to make sure that they’re as efficient and clean as they can possibly be,” Hellerstein said. “But at the same time I think we should be thinking seriously about how we can investment in clean transportation with things like buses, light rail and commuter rail.”

Heather Leibowitz is the director of Environment New York. She says investments in renewable energy, such as Governor Andrew Cuomo’s pledge to invest $1 billion in the solar industry, and regional efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions and improve building efficiency are already are paying off. 

“For example, managers at the Empire State Building installed new windows and lighting and upgraded the cooling and heating equipment,” Leibowitz said. “That cut energy costs by almost 40 percent and earned profit on the project in just three years.”

Click here for the full report.