Dave Douglas, Chief Sustainability Officer for Sun Microsystems, recently wrote an article in which he predicts the United State’s hit peak carbon in 2007 (meaning emissions will now trend downward).  Here is a quote from his article:

  So, now my prediction: Peak Carbon occurred in the US in 2007.

 Yep, I’m predicting that annual GHG emissions in the US will now drop regularly going forward, with only minor setbacks every once in awhile. My rationale is that there are short-term, medium-term and long-term drivers in place which are capable of, together, sustaining reductions over decades:

His article generated a lot of responses and criticism from many who believe the U.S. will continue to trend higher in emissions until meaningful federal greenhouse legislation passes Congress.  I actually agree with his prediction. 

$4 dollar gas is not going away.  From recent car sale reports, the American consumer is switching from SUV and pickups to compact cars.  Even if people are not buying a new car they are driving less.   The transportation sector makes up roughly one-third of total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.  Therefore, these consumer trends will translate into significant reductions.

Also, the switch toward renewable energy, the corporate sustainability movement, and greenhouse gas programs passed at the state level will all continue the trend downward.  Finally, federal legislation is inevitable, with many predicting a cap and trade program starting in 2012. 

In April, U.S. EPA released its greenhouse gas inventory report that analyzes emissions trends.  The main take away from the report…greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 1.1 from 2005 to 2006.  U.S. EPA concludes the decrease was attributable to the following:

  • compared to 2005, 2006 had warmer winter conditions, which decreased consumption of heating fuels, as well as cooler summer conditions, which reduced demand for electricity;
  • restraint on fuel consumption caused by rising fuel prices, primarily in the transportation sector; and
  • increased use of natural gas and renewables in the electric power sector.

    We have a long way to go, but it does appear that peak carbon is not such an outlandish prediction.