Transportation now the top source of U.S. global warming pollution

Emissions from cars and trucks now exceed power generation as the largest source of carbon emissions in Southeast. (© iStock)

For the first time since the 1970s, transportation has surpassed electric power generation as the leading source of heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions nationwide, according to an analysis of the latest federal energy data.

In large part, this is due to the fact that the power sector’s carbon footprint has shrunk considerably over the past 10 years, thanks to market forces, regulatory pressures, and efforts by SELC and our partners to reduce dependence on coal-fired power generation and ramp up the use of cleaner alternatives.

Over that same time, SELC’s push to reform highway-dominant transportation policies has helped reduce carbon emissions per person from cars and trucks in the Southeast. However, total carbon pollution from transportation has increased recently, primarily due to lower prices at the gas pump. Transportation has become the largest source of global warming pollution in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, and is neck-and-neck with power generation in Georgia, according to federal energy stats.

SELC’s transportation experts will continue their work to reduce the sector’s climate impacts by promoting cleaner vehicles and greater investment in alternatives to driving, such as transit, freight rail, and passenger rail, as well as projects that encourage walking and bicycling. We will also continue our efforts to rein in sprawling development patterns that lead to longer commutes and leave many Southerners with no choice but to get behind the wheel.

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