Federal data suggest it's not so in an "electrifying" economy.
Energy-related carbon emissions in the United States remained relatively flat last year, despite 4 percent U.S. economic growth. Although one year's data does not a trend make, the federal statistics seem to fly in the face of the notion that strict emissions cuts threaten the economy by raising energy prices and unemployment. Instead, says technology strategist Mark P. Mills, the figures evince a decade-old shift toward an electricity-driven economy.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, carbon emissions from burning of fossil fuels were up just 0.4 percent from 1997, or from 1,479 million metric tons of carbon to 1,484 MTc. The primary energy mix for power generation changed little from the previous year, according to preliminary estimates.
According to EIA economist Perry Lindstrom, several factors contributed to low emissions growth in 1998. He says, "Most of this low growth can be attributed to energy intensity declining rather than carbon intensity declining." Carbon intensity has been on the rise since 1995, adds Lindstrom.
"[The 1998 data] isn't really different from what's been going on for a decade," says Mills, senior fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute. "The economy grew significantly, consumption of electricity grew significantly, but carbon emissions didn't grow very much."