Despite all of the ongoing efforts to increase renewable energy and curb our carbon footprints, carbon dioxide emissions in the United States rose 3.9 percent last year. While this is upsetting in itself, what’s even more worrisome is the fact that the Energy Information Administration contributes much of the rise to increased economic activity. The country’s GDP grew 3 percent, pushing up our CO2 emissions with it. Sadly, instead of this increase in activity drawing energy from clean sources like wind and solar, it led to a 6 percent increase in coal energy consumption. 4 percent may not sound like a lot, but the truth is that the jump was the country’s largest increase in energy related CO2 emissions since 1988.

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“The 3.9 percent increase in emissions in 2010 was primarily driven by the rebound from the economic downturn experienced in 2008 and 2009. The reference case in our latest energy outlook projects significantly slower emissions growth over the next decade, averaging 0.2 percent per year,” said Acting EIA Administrator Howard Gruenspecht in a press release.

Emissions are still below 2005 levels, but on average, they have been rising 0.6 percent every year since 1990. The 6 percent rise in coal consumption is probably the most depressing, seeing as it dropped 12 percent in 2009. It seems as though the United States can’t take one step forward without taking three steps back.

This connected rise in emissions and the GDP highlights our country’s energy problems. It shows us that we are still very much dependent on coal and other dirty energy sources. We should be stimulating the economy by investing in green infrastructure and renewable energy. Not only would this help curb our carbon emissions, but it would create much needed green jobs and put us on the path to a more stable and sustainable energy future.

+ Energy Information Administration