U.S. Energy Emissions Rise For The First Time In Half A Decade

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By Tsvetana Paraskova

Higher natural gas consumption due to extreme summer and winter weather and increased petroleum demand in transportation in a strong economy resulted in the United States reversing in 2018 several years of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reductions in the energy sector, the Energy Information Administration said on Tuesday.

Last year, U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 2.7 percent compared to 2017, primarily due to the higher emissions from natural gas and petroleum. The emissions increase in 2018 was the first such annual rise since 2014, EIA said.

U.S. emissions of CO2 in the energy sector have dropped in six of the past ten years. Even with last year’s rise, the emissions in 2018 were still 12 percent lower than the energy-related emissions back in 2005, according to EIA’s data series.

The only fossil fuel with lower emissions in 2018 compared to 2017 was coal, with CO2 emissions down 4 percent, as natural gas has increasingly replaced coal in electricity generation in the past few years.

Declining coal demand in the U.S. and rising demand for natural gas and renewables have hit coal production and the number of active coal mines in the United States has dropped by more than half since peak coal production in 2008, EIA said earlier this year.

In a major milestone, renewables held a larger share than coal in U.S. monthly electricity generation in April 2019, for the first time ever, reflecting seasonal factors and longer-term trends such as coal’s decline and renewables’ rise. Yet, renewables overtaking coal will be an April blip, as the EIA expected coal to provide more electricity than renewables in the United States for the remaining months of 2019.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the U.S. saw its CO2 emissions rise by 3.1 percent in 2018, reversing a declining trend. Despite last year’s increase, emissions in the United States remain around their 1990 levels, or 14 percent below their peak in 2000.

“This is the largest absolute decline among all countries since 2000,” the IEA says in its Global Energy & CO2 Status Report.

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