Greenhouse Gas LTE & Comment

LTE: Cynthia Allen recently stated the people are unwilling to make the kind of sacrifices that are needed to combat climate change (Dispatch, 12 June). Her column shows a limited understanding of greenhouse gas production.

Ms. Allen is wrong when she implies that home heating and cooling are a major source of energy wastage. Actually, homes and businesses together generate a small fraction of greenhouse gasses. The three largest sources are electric power plants, motor vehicles, and industry.   Together they account for over three-quarters of greenhouse gasses.

But there is good news on all fronts. Emissions from power plants have been dropping sharply. Bloomberg recently predicted that electric cars with efficient motors will become cheaper than gas autos within ten years.  And industry has been saving energy. All in all carbon dioxide emissions have fallen 14 percent in the last ten years.

We are living in an era of great technological change. There are many opportunities for people to save money by saving energy. But we need to realize that the big changes will come from outside the home.

Alan R. Rosenfield


Comment: Electricity generating is the largest user of energy in the U.S., and the largest source of greenhouse gasses.  The basic problem is that generation is extremely inefficient – almost two-thirds of the energy supplied goes up the smokestack as heat.

There are two ways to improve this situation:

  1. Consumers can use less energy.
  2. Electricity can be produced more efficiently.

In my LTE, I suggested that the second approach should be more effective. Generating electricity produces about two and a half times as much greenhouse gasses as residential and commercial users combined.

The technology for reducing generation-caused greenhouse gasses is available. Natural gas is better than coal, while renewable energy emits no greenhouse gasses at all.

To reiterate, if we are going to reduce greenhouse gasses, electricity generation will play a major role.


EPA “Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions”, accessed 27 June 2017

EIA “Electricity Data Browser”,1&geo=vvvvvvvvvvvvo&endsec=vg&freq=A&start=2008&end=2014&ctype=linechart&ltype=pin&rtype=s&maptype=0&rse=0&pin=

Accessed 26 June 2017


LLNL “Energy Flow Charts”, Accessed 26 June 2017


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