MIT Sees Acceleration In US Greenhouse Emissions
- MIT Sees Acceleration In US Greenhouse Emissions
by Staff Writers
Cambridge MA (SPX) Nov 20, 2007
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions could grow more quickly in the next 50
years than in the previous half-century, and technological change may
cause increased emissions rather than control them, according to a new
study by an MIT economist and his colleague. What's more, technology
itself cannot be relied on as the most efficient tool for reducing
carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions or solving the global energy crisis,
said Professor Emeritus Richard Eckaus of the MIT Department of
Economics and his co-author, Ian Sue Wing, of Boston University.
Their paper, "The Implications of the Historical Decline in U.S.
Energy Intensity for Long-Run CO2 Emission Projections," was published
in the November issue of Energy Policy. In it, the pair portray the
changing interplay among technology, energy use and CO2 emissions
based on a simulation of the U.S. economy.
"We found that, in spite of increasing energy prices, technological
change has not been responsible for much reduction in energy use, and
that it may have had the reverse effect," said Eckaus, who with Sue
Wing is also affiliated with the Joint Program on the Science and
Policy of Climate Change at MIT.
The researchers studied the periods 1958 to 1996 and 1980 to 1996 and
projected from 2000 to 2050. Based on their findings from the past 50
years, and adjusting for a more realistic expectation for
technological changes, they found that the rates of growth for energy
use and emissions may accelerate from the historical rates of 2.2
percent and 1.6 percent, respectively.
"The rates of growth could be higher by a half percent or more, which
becomes significant when compounded over 50 years," Eckaus says.
Eckaus acknowledged it has become counter-intuitive to question
technology's potential to solve the energy problem. But U.S.
steelmaking illustrates how fossil fuel consumption can increase along
with technological change: Steelmakers' furnaces are now electrical,
reducing coal use at the plant. But coal generates some of the
electricity that powers the factory furnace, resulting in more CO2
"The net savings in this case comes from the use of scrap steel
instead of iron ore, not from new furnace technology," Eckaus said.
"There is no 'a priori' reason to think technology has the potential
for reducing energy use while meeting the tests of economics. It's
politically unappetizing in the U.S., but in Europe, gas costs six
dollars a gallon. Make energy more expensive: People will use less of
it," Eckaus said.
A former consultant to the World Bank, Eckaus has been an adviser on
economic policy to Egypt, India, Mexico and Portugal, among other
countries; he advocates policies to control both energy use and CO2
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Climate Science News - Modeling, Mitigation Adaptation