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Update on U.S. CO2 emissions

The U.S. is making great strides in reducing the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere. From the Wall Street Journal (October 10-11, 2020 edition):

A recent Energy Information Administration report shows how fracking and competitive energy markets have done more to reduce CO2 emissions over the last decade than government regulation and renewable subsidies. According to the report, energy-related CO2 emissions in the U.S. fell 2.8% last year as many utilities replaced coal and heating oil with less expensive natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling has unleashed a gusher of natural gas production in the Midwest and Southwest. As a result, natural gas prices have plunged, putting many coal plants out of business.

CO2 emissions from coal declined by more than 50% from 2007 to 2019, the report notes, and by 15% in 2019 alone. Between 2016 and 2019 the share of electricity generated by natural gas rose to 38.1% from 33.7% and by non-carbon generation (including nuclear and hydro-power) to 38.2% from 35.5%. Coal generation during this period plunged to 23.3% from 30.3%.

Increasing power generation from natural gas has accounted for 60% of the country's decline in CO2 emissions from electricity since 2010. The carbon intensity of the country's energy declined at about the same rate during 2016-2019 as from 2009 to 2016.

The International Energy Agency earlier this year reported that the U.S. “saw the largest decline in energy-related CO2 emissions in 2019 on a country basis” due to a 15% reduction in the use of coal for power generation and “U.S. emissions are now down almost 1 gigatonne from their peak in the year 2000, the largest absolute decline by any country over that period.”

Mike Breunling

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