Greenhouse gas reductions slow in 2017

Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are slowing down under the Trump Administration, with level of emission of the harmful gasses falling just half a percent in 2017, according to the latest data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), released Thursday.

Emissions have fallen by nearly 15 percent since hitting a recent high in 2007, but this year’s figures significantly trail last year's and show progress may be dwindling.

Emissions fell 2.7 percent in 2016, for example.

In Thursday’s announcement, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler stressed innovation as the driver of the reductions, repeating a buzzword quickly becoming a favorite among Republican legislators.

“Through industry innovation, we’ve seen substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions over the last decade,” Wheeler said in a release. “This is proof that American ingenuity can support continued emissions reductions in the years ahead without the need for regulatory overreach.”

Power sector emissions fell 4.2 percent in 2017, while emissions from the transportation sector increased by 1.2 percent.

When emissions fell in 2016 — the year after Trump took office — the EPA stressed that regulations would not be necessary to drive greenhouse gas reductions.

“Thanks to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls Sri Lankan prime minister following church bombings Ex-Trump lawyer: Mueller knew Trump had to call investigation a 'witch hunt' for 'political reasons' The biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone MORE’s regulatory reform agenda, the economy is booming, energy production is surging, and we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions from major industrial sources,” Wheeler said in a statement from last year releasing the 2016 numbers.

Trump has since worked to unwind regulations put in place by the Obama administration that were intended to address climate change by reducing emissions.

Experts have largely attributed the drop in emissions to the cheaper price of natural gas, which emits less carbon than coal, a top contributor to greenhouse gas emissions globally. Trump campaigned on a promise to revive America's coal industry.

Transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., but electricity production remains a close second.

Wheeler recently downplayed the risk of climate change in the U.S., saying the most problematic threats are still “50 to 75 years out,” compared to more immediate issues like access to clean drinking water.

And last year, the EPA again stressed that regulations would not be necessary to battle greenhouse gas levels.

“The Trump Administration has proven that federal regulations are not necessary to drive CO2 reductions. While many around the world are talking about reducing greenhouse gases, the U.S. continues to deliver, and today’s report is further evidence of our action-oriented approach,” Wheeler said in the announcement of the 2016 figures.