A report issued with little fanfare by the the U.S. Energy Information Agency shows that U.S. industrial emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) — considered the main culprit in global warming — have fallen to a twenty-year low.
The falloff in CO2 emissions caught may environmental experts by surprise. The U.S. government has not introduced any stringent regulations to stem CO2 emissions, the Associated Press noted.
However, experts say the reduction is most likely the result of a move away from coal-fired power plants and the adopting of cleaner energy technologies, like natural gas.
Environmentalists told the AP that offering less expensive, clean energy sources would prompt businesses to make the switch the greener energy on their own.
The wholesale price of natural gas has plunged over the last four years, falling from between $7 and $8 a unit, to just $3 a unit. At that price, natural gas is less expensive than coal for electricity generation.
Industry has taken note of the change. As late as 2005, coal-fired plants produced about 50% of all electricity in the U.S.. This year, that fell to just 34%.
While the U.S. may be switching to clean energy sources, coal remains a popular option in many emerging nations, like China. Experts also warn that a spike in natural gas prices could reverse the trend.