By Rory Carroll
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California’s greenhouse gas emissions rose about 2 percent in 2012 compared to the previous year as more natural gas was burned to compensate for the closure of a nuclear plant and a drop in hydro-electricity due to a drought, the state’s air regulator said on Wednesday.
Higher utility sector emissions were offset somewhat by a modest decline in output from the transportation sector, which remains the state’s largest single source of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.
Emissions from manufacturers stayed relatively flat despite a 13 percent increase from the cement sector as the state’s eight plants ramped up production.
State air officials said that despite the small overall increase, long-term trends show California is cutting emissions even as the economy recovers from a lengthy recession.
Transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions have fallen 12 percent over the past seven years due in part to a larger number of fuel-efficient vehicles on California roads, regulators said. The Toyota Prius, a hybrid that gets about 50 miles to the gallon, was the best-selling car in California in 2012.
Californian’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions have dropped 12 percent over the past decade, regulators said.
In 2006 the state passed a law, AB 32, that called for a cut in emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020, a goal that officials have said the state is on course to achieve.
Since the law was passed, California has implemented a variety of environmental programs, including a carbon cap-and-trade system, a low carbon fuel standard, a renewable electricity mandate and incentives for low-emission vehicles.
Other states are watching closely to see how successful California is in reducing emissions. California, meanwhile, is hoping other U.S. states and Canadian provinces will join its pioneering carbon market to help boost liquidity and maximize the environmental benefit.
“The latest inventory clearly demonstrates that under AB 32 California is getting more economic development every year for each ton of greenhouse gases emitted overall,” said Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Leslie Adler)