Thursday, May 15, 2008

America's surprisingly green thumb

From Steven Hayward's research for AEI-- as blurbed in The American...

In 1910, the nation's population was only 92 million people, per-capita income (in current 2007 dollars) was only $5,964, and total GDP (also in current 2007 dollars) was about $551 billion--about one-twentieth the size of the U.S. economy today. While the economy has grown more than twenty-fold in real terms since 1910, fossil fuel energy consumption only grew six-fold, and per-capita CO2 emissions only doubled--from 10.9 tons to 19.4 tons. This is not the profile of a nation that is profligate with energy....

If these differences in standard of living and transportation density are normalized, America's per-capita greenhouse gas emissions would not be much different from western Europe. And here lies the main paradox of the misperception on this issue: it is precisely because the United States is highly energy efficient that we are able to afford and consume more energy than European nations on a per-capita basis. One obvious implication of this analysis is that the United States cannot currently achieve European-level greenhouse gas emissions unless it reduces American output and lowers the nation's standard of living.


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