As we begin 2013, it is a good opportunity to reflect on 2012 and how we did as a nation and personally with energy consumption, and how the wildlife and other natural resources fared in the region.
According to Kevin Begos of the Huffington Post, “the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.” What is really remarkable about this is that it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide.
In a report from the U.S. Energy Information Agency, a part of the Energy Department, said that energy related United States CO2 emissions for the first four months of this year fell to about 1992 levels. Energy emissions make up about 98 percent of the total.
While conservation efforts, the lagging economy, and greater use of renewable energy are factors in the CO2 decline, the drop-off is due mainly to low-priced natural gas, the agency said.
"The trend is good. We like it. We are pleased that we're shifting away from one of the dirtiest sources to one that's much cleaner," said Janice Nolen, an American Lung Association spokeswoman. "It's been a real surprise to see this kind of shift. We certainly didn't predict it."
The drought was hard on our midwestern farmers, but it turns out the drought conditions proved favorable for many of the ground-nesting birds, and, believe it or not, honeybees.
In Missouri, the Department of Conservation says the drought and hot weather from the past two summers have sparked a sharp rise in the state’s turkey population.
Turkeys are not the only ground-nesters that benefitted from the drought, bobwhite quail whose numbers declined for several years in the heavy spring rains, also have a good hatch in dryer conditions.
It was also reported that 2012 was a good year for honeybees, despite the drought. According to John Timmons, head of the Missouri State Beekeepers Association, the early spring played a role in increased honey production for the year.
“And then (there was) a good pattern, and a good balance, of dry periods and wet periods…the floral sources had a lot of opportunity to produce lots of nectar, and as a result the bees make lots of honey,” says Timmons.
Trees in many areas of the country were hit hard due to the drought, but Christmas trees in Kansas and Missouri pulled through. According to Eldon Clawson, president of the Kansas Christmas Tree Growers Association, “the drought this year won’t mean fewer Kansas-grown Christmas trees for sale.”
Page 2 of 2 - Clawson says the industry may feel effects in several years, when small trees injured by the heat would have been ready for harvest. The drought significantly hurt Christmas tree growers in other parts of the country, Clawson said. He says the varieties of trees grown in Kansas are better able to handle drought conditions.
All things considered, it appears that in terms of energy and environment, the nation and the region did pretty well in 2012. I hope you did, too, and that you will find ways to live a little more Green in 2013.
Lynn Youngblood is a Kansas City-based naturalist who writes for Gatehouse Media.