Study claims air quality improves as energy use climbs

| 1/18/2002

Analysis of three decades of government data shows Americans don't necessarily have to choose between healthier air and energy consumption."Breathing Easier about Energy: A Healthy Economy and Healthier Air," a study produced by Energy and Environmental Analysis Inc. for Foundation for Clean Air Progress (FCAP), says federal government data collected since 1970 reveals dramatic U.S. air quality improvements even as the nation experienced an equally dramatic rise in energy consumption.

"Government data show that over the past three decades Americans have experienced increasingly healthier air and tremendous economic expansion powered by greater energy consumption," said FCAP President William D. Fay. "The data illustrate that energy consumption is not incompatible with America's quest to improve its air quality."

The analysis tracks air quality gains and energy consumption during the 30-year period from 1970-1999. It is derived solely from data produced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy.The nationwide data show that since 1970: carbon monoxide levels have dropped 28 percent; sulfur dioxide levels have decreased 39 percent; volatile organic compound levels have declined 42 percent; particulate matter levels have fallen 75 percent; airborne lead levels have declined 98 percent; and overall energy consumption has increased 41 percent.The only pollutant that increased overall during the 30-year period was nitrogen oxide (NOx), which rose by 22 percent, about one-half the rate of energy consumption. NOx emissions have been targeted for substantial future reductions, assured by new diesel fuel requirements and technological advances, and are expected to decline.

The study's state-by-state analysis tracks air quality and energy consumption during the 15-year period of 1985 to 1999. The data were drawn from the National Emission Trends (NET) database, which is available on EPA's AIRData web site at

"There was a time that Americans had to choose between clean air and energy use," Faye said. "The facts show that healthier air can go hand in hand with a healthy economy."The Foundation for Clean Air Progress (FCAP) is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization founded in 1995 to provide public education and information about America's air quality progress. More information about FCAP and the study, including national and state-by-state data, can be found on the group's web site at