Earth Day 2003 Fact Sheet

 

Environmental Progress Since the First Earth Day

 

Air Quality: Since 1970, aggregate emissions of the six principal air pollutants tracked nationally have been cut by 25 percent. During that same time period, the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased 161 percent, while energy consumption increased 42 percent. Vehicle miles traveled have increased 149 percent.1

National air quality levels measured at thousands of monitoring stations across the country have shown improvements over the past 20 years for all six principal pollutants.
2

Over the past 20 years, monitored levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) have decreased 24 percent. All areas of the United States that once were in violation of national air quality standards for NO2 now meet that standard.
3

Sulfur dioxide emissions decreased 25 percent from 1981 to 2001,
4 while the 2001 ambient average carbon monoxide concentration is almost 62 percent lower than that for 1982. 2001's the lowest recorded measurement in the last 20 years.5

Acid Rain: The Environmental Protection Agency's market-based emissions trading program to reduce acid rain has successfully reduced these air pollutants from 16 million tons in 1990 to 11.2 million tons in 2000.6

Aircraft Fuel Efficiency: Newer Boeing airplanes are twice as fuel efficient as those built 30 years ago. Compared with 50 years ago, the reduction is even more dramatic - 70 percent.7 Using new technology called raked wing tips, the newest Boeing 777 is expected to achieve a two percent fuel efficiency improvement, which equates to saving 1.3 million pounds of fuel per year per airplane.8

Wetlands: The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Resources Inventory (NRI) data from 1997 estimates a loss of wetlands between 1992 and 1997 of 32,000 acres per year - down from 80,000 acres per year in the early 1990s. The NRI also reports a net gain in wetland acreage on private lands in the western United States.9

Oil and Gas Reserves: The U.S. Geological Survey's "World Petroleum Assessment 2000" estimated the quantities of conventional oil, gas and liquid natural gas outside the U.S. that have the potential to be added to American reserves in the next 30 years. Compared to their own 1994 estimates, "undiscovered volumes from this assessment (exclusive of the U.S.) are 20 percent greater for oil, 14 percent smaller for gas and 130 percent greater for natural gas liquids."10

Energy Efficiency: "Energy consumption per dollar of GDP has declined at an average annual rate of 1.7 percent during the last 25 years" according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. "Similarly, per-capital energy use grew 61 percent in the 25 years from 1949 to 1974, but grew only two percent in the 25 years since then" according to the Pacific Research Institute's Index of Leading Environmental Indicators 2001.11



Footnotes

1 "Latest Findings on National Air Quality: 2001 Status and Trends," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air Quality, Washington, D.C., downloaded from the Internet at http://www.epa.gov/air/aqtrnd01/index.html on March 4, 2003.

2 Ibid.

3 "Latest Findings on National Air Quality: 2001 Status and Trends - Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air Quality, Washington, D.C., downloaded from the Internet at http://www.epa.gov/air/aqtrnd01/nitrodox.html on March 4, 2003.

4 "Latest Findings on National Air Quality: 2001 Status and Trends."

5 "Latest Findings on National Air Quality: 2001 Status and Trends - Carbon Monoxide (CO)," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air Quality, Washington, D.C., downloaded from the Internet at http://www.epa.gov/air/aqtrnd01/carbon.html on March 4, 2003.

6 "Latest Findings on National Air Quality: 2001 Status and Trends - Acid Rain," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air Quality, Washington, D.C., downloaded from the Internet at http://www.epa.gov/air/aqtrnd01/acidrain.html on March 4, 2003.

7 "Want Better Gas Mileage? Drive a Boeing 747," San Diego Earth Times, May 2002, downloaded from the Internet at http://www.sdearthtims.com/et0502/et0502s8.html on March 4, 2003.

8 "New Boeing 777 Raked Wing Tips Improve Fuel Efficiency, Good for the Environment," press release, The Boeing Corporation, Everett, WA, October 1, 2002, downloaded from the Internet at http://www.boeing.com/news/releases/2002/q4/nr_021001h.html on March 4, 2003.

9 Steven Hayward, "Index of Leading Environmental Indicators 2001," Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, San Francisco, California, 2001, p. 42.

10 "World Petroleum Assessment 2000," U.S. Geological Service, Reston, Virginia, downloaded from the Internet at http://greenwood.cr.usgs.gov/energy/WorldEnergy/DDS-60/ESpt2.html on March 6, 2003.

11 "Index of Leading Environmental Indicators 2001," p. 57-58.

 

Earth Day Information Center

 


 


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