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CO2 emissions reductions by sector (if cap-and-trade legislation passes)

June 11, 2010

I saw this graph over at Ezra Klein’s blog and was pretty surprised.

It shows the percent reduction in CO2 emissions by sector by 2030 assuming the carbon cap-and-trade program outlined in the House of Representatives energy and climate bill (aka Waxman-Markey), or something like it, passes Congress.

What surprised me is how little the reduction would be  in the transportation sector (~5%) compared to the electric power sector (nearly 40%).

No link was posted to a more comprehensive report so what you see is what you get — I don’t know any more details of this analysis. What’s unclear to me in this graph is if the relatively small amount in CO2 emission reduction in the transportation sector is because we simply can’t make internal combustion engines significantly more carbon-efficient than they already are or does it have something to do with increasing usage of electric and hybrid-electric cars?

Either way, it highlights how important it is to scientifically and financially invest in transforming the way we generate electricity. In the U.S. over half of the electricity generated is from coal-fired power plants with an additional >20% coming from natural gas. What would be interesting to see in this analysis is how that tallest bar in the graph breaks down in terms of what contributed to the reduced emissions. That is, how much of that is from increased nuclear electricity generation? How much from solar or wind? How much from carbon capture and storage? And so on.

The author of this plot is Harvard professor Robert Stavins — maybe I’ll explore his blog sometime soon to find some answers to these questions.

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