by Brian Collett —Transport now pumps out more pollutant emissions than any other source in the US.
The US Energy Information Administration has reported that the sector’s emissions outstripped those of the power industry during the first two months of this year, though, admittedly, by only four tenths of a percentage point. The statistic is 32.1 per cent of all emissions against 31.7 per cent from power generation.
Last year automobile sales hit a record level in the US, thanks partly to low borrowing interest rates, and Americans are driving more miles than ever.
However, analysts are putting the auto emissions figure into the overall picture of trends and changes in energy production and attempts to combat climate change.
Vehicles now top the pollution league table largely because emissions limits have been imposed on industry by the government, resulting in coal being replaced to a great extent by natural gas as a source of power.
Natural gas is not the perfect alternative but it is cheap and burns more cleanly than coal. Industry-watchers say it is likely to be a stepping stone to the eventual dominance of renewables as wind and solar power becomes more available and less costly.
For the moment natural gas is widely used. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which provides information for energy decision-makers, predicts that its use globally will continue to increase and will peak by the end of the next decade.
Renewables, nevertheless, are almost certain to take over in the end. They are gaining ground particularly fast in California, for example. Generally, say observers, more corporations will invest in clean power as the cost falls, and more individuals and communities will opt for rooftop solar installations.
This trend could, of course, halt the increase in vehicle pollution. Sales of electric vehicles in the US are surging and auto manufacturing could be transformed – but not before the next decade.