No one will argue the fact that we are all enjoying the lower gas prices at the moment. In addition, the economy appears to be recovering, perhaps too slowly for some, but definitely in the right direction. Unfortunately, there is a downside to be considered. According to recent numbers released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) fossil fuel emissions have risen 2.39 % during 2013 and over 7.45% in 2014. This ends a 5-year streak of steady declines. Once again, greenhouse emissions are on the upswing. With gas prices down to 2009 pricing, people have once again started using their vehicles more freely and consuming more gas.
Some energy analysts will argue that they expected and projected this turn of events. They are attributing the decline in CO2 emissions to the recession with many companies suspending production, causing their energy consumption to plummet. Additionally, the energy efficient enhancements in the electricity market as well as the efforts in implementing renewable energy resources were also contributing factors; although not to the same degree as the recession. Arguably, they associate the recent increases to population growth as well as technological power-mongers, i.e. smartphones and tablets.
The increases in greenhouse emissions are across the board – electric power, residential, industrial, transportation and commercial; residents took the biggest hit, transportation the smallest (introduction of biofuels).
Forecasts are indicating that the increases in CO2 emissions will slow down by 2020, projecting a 1% overall increase. Additionally, the CO2 emissions are expected to plateau in the next year or two due to the increase in smart appliances, smart cars and other innovative energy-efficient products. The conservative projection for decreases between 2014 and 2030 is estimated at 7 percent.
In one report, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) concluded that emissions can cut life spans up to 12 years. The Global Burden of Disease database has a metric called “Years of Life Lost”. “…1,641,050 years of life lost [were] attributed to particulate matter, against 1,873,160 years of life lost to road injuries…”
In a risk-filled world, emissions rank as just another risk, conveniently ignored and not as dramatic as road deaths that make for a stronger platform for reforms.
The deaths are attributable not only to particulate matter in air pollutants, but also to ozone concentrations of auto emissions. One city, London, has taken big steps in moving towards lowering emissions. They have levied additional taxes on vehicles with heavy emissions and are “charging drivers for the true cost of their social impact”.
We can pay with our lives or pay the surtaxes. Somewhere, somebody has to pay. Hopefully, as more people get on board with the idea of reducing our carbon footprint and make efforts towards a greener, healthier planet, we will once again watch the pendulum swing the other way as our fossil fuel usage declines and our planet – and our health – starts to recover once again.