No sooner had the U.S. agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 than conventional wisdom held that the goal was unattainable, Brad Plumer writes at the Washington Posts’s Wonkblog. But a new analysis–by a climate change adviser for Shell, no less–says the nation might actually meet that target, helped along by the recent recession.

In addition to the recession, which reduced economic activity and thus energy demand, other factors include new EPA emissions rules could lead power companies to retire coal-burning plants and new fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. Even allowing for somewhat increased emissions once the economy recovers and emissions from natural gas used to replace coal, the nation could hit the 17 percent goal, according to David Hone of Shell.

There are a lot of caveats about those projections, Plumer notes, including the possibility that the economy, and thus energy use, might rebound more quickly than anticipated or that Washington will kill the new EPA rules.

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