Quantcast
Popular
Los Angeles traffic. Luke Jones / Flickr

Why Transportation Is Now the Top Source of U.S. Pollution

With the holidays coming around, it may be a good time to note that the countless miles that Americans will drive, train or fly has a big planetary impact.

In fact, the transportation sector is now the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., unseating electricity production for the first time in four decades.


According to a Bloomberg analysis, carbon dioxide emissions from transportation exceeded those from electricity production in 2016—the first time since the 1970s. The gap widened even further this year.

Check out this image from Sam Ori, the executive director of the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics:

However, the reason behind the rankings flip is not because pollution from cars, planes, trains and ships is increasing. Turns out, transportation-related emissions in the U.S. haven't risen much since 2000.

Rather, the switch is due to utilities moving away from coal—the dirtiest source of power—to cheaper and cleaner natural gas. Natural gas, of course, releases greenhouse gases, but the fossil fuel emits up to 60 percent less CO2 compared to emissions from a typical new coal plant.

The boom in renewable energy, which is becoming more efficient and cheaper, is also driving down emissions.

Clean energy benefits not just the planet's health, but our health, as Bloomberg touted:

"This is good news, and not just because carbon dioxide emissions are the biggest contributor to global climate change. The shift to cleaner energy also has immediate local improvements to health by reducing the burden of asthma, cancer and heart disease."

Improved fuel economies enacted by the Obama administration and the growth of electric vehicles could spur big CO2 cuts in the U.S. transportation sector in the coming years.

However, the bad news is that the Trump administration has a pro-coal agenda and is attempting to undo President Obama's Clean Power Plan that slashes emissions from coal-fired plants. The president is also considering rolling back fuel-efficiency standards.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Health
Sonsam / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Congress Poised to Act to Reduce Major Source of PFAS Chemicals in Drinking Water

House and Senate leaders included a provision in legislation to fund the Federal Aviation Administration and strengthen disaster programs that will give commercial airports the option to switch to firefighting foams that do not include the highly toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Pexels

Glyphosate Could Be Factor in Bee Decline, Study Warns

Another study has cast doubt on the environmental safety of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, the most frequently used weedkiller in the world.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
A grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. Jim Peaco / National Park Service

Yellowstone Area Grizzlies Regain Endangered Species Protection

A federal judge restored endangered species protections for grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park on Monday, The Huffington Post reported, putting a permanent halt to plans by Wyoming and Idaho to launch the first Yellowstone-area grizzly hunt in four decades.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
An activist adjusts his hat while protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline during the Native Nations Rise protest on March 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. The KXL has been at the center of a contentious fight for a decade. Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

KXL Pipeline Developer Plans to Start Construction in 2019

Construction on the long-delayed Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline is planned for 2019, developer TransCanada said Monday.

"Keystone XL has undergone years of extensive environmental review by federal and state regulators," TransCanada spokesman Matthew John told Omaha World-Herald. "All of these evaluations show that Keystone XL can be built safely and with minimal impact to the environment."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Artist Ricky Lee Gordon paints his mural, Wings of Paradise, on a building in Long Beach, California. David McNew / Ricky Lee Gordo / Greenpeace

Wings of Paradise: Drawing Attention to Rainforest Destruction

By Alexander Navarro

For too long the story of Indonesian forests has been painted with the darkness of burning rainforests, disappearing species and displaced communities. Greedy palm oil companies, that only seem to be driven by the bottom line whatever the cost to humanity or biodiversity, have played a major role in this.

Keep reading... Show less
Science
The ICESat-2 will point lasers at Earth's ice sheets. NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

NASA's New Space Laser to Measure Earth's Changing Ice

NASA will soon activate the "most advanced laser instrument of its kind" to study Earth's changing polar ice.

The incredibly precise Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) is the main feature of the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) that successfully launched into space from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Sept. 15.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
The Atlantic wolffish is already at risk from oxygen depletion. Nilfanion, via Wikimedia Commons

Oxygen Loss in Canada Linked to Climate Change

By Tim Radford

Oceanographers have identified an act of slow suffocation, as oxygen loss grows near one of the world's richest fishing grounds, and are linking the change to human-triggered global warming.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
A Co-op grocery store location in Shoreditch, London. The Co-op Group / CC BY 2.0

Supermarket Becomes First in UK to Replace Single-Use Plastic Bags With Compostable Alternative

Since 2015, all large stores in England have been required by law to charge five pence for single-use plastic bags in an attempt to reduce plastic pollution.

Now, major UK supermarket chain the Co-op is taking that one step further by phasing out plastic bags entirely and replacing them with compostable alternatives, becoming the first supermarket in the UK to do so, The Guardian reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!