Emissions of Carbon Dioxide From Energy Consumption Increase

U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from energy consumption have increased during each of the first eight months of 2018 compared to the corresponding months in 2017, according to a SUN DAY Campaign analysis of data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Further, the latest issue of EIA’s “Monthly Energy Review” (with data through Aug. 31, 2018) reveals that for the first two-thirds of 2018, total CO2 emissions from domestic use of petroleum; natural gas; coal; biomass; geothermal energy; and non-biomass waste were 2.9 percent higher than for the same period in 2017. For the most recent month reported, CO2 emissions are 3.4 percent higher than a year earlier.

Those from fossil fuels alone (coal, petroleum, natural gas) have risen by more than 3 percent (3.05 percent) while those from just natural gas zoomed upward by over 12 percent (12.03 percent).

If the current growth rate continues, CO2 emissions from energy consumption in 2018 will be back up to, and perhaps exceed, the level they were at in 2015. This would reverse the downward and encouraging trajectory of the past decade, a trend highlighted by EIA in news releases it issued but which were both out-of-date and misleading.

Moreover, the rate at which CO2 emissions are rising has outpaced the increases forecast throughout the year by EIA in its monthly “Short-Term Energy Outlook.” For the first six months of 2018, EIA forecast, on average, an increase of only 1.3 percent in 2018 CO2 emissions. For the most recent five-month period (July – Nov. 2018), the average of EIA’s forecasts for the increase in CO2 levels in 2018 rose to 2.2 percent. Its highest forecast, a 2.5 percent increase, was issued on Nov. 6. Thus, actual year-to-date emissions are exceeding EIA’s worst-case prediction.

In addition, beyond CO2 emissions from domestic energy consumption, the U.S. is increasing its contribution to global emissions through its coal export program. EIA data reveal that net U.S. coal exports during the first nine months of 2018 have exceeded the levels recorded for each corresponding month in 2017. For the first three-quarters of 2018, coal exports are nearly one-third higher (32.9 percent) than they were in 2017 [82,812 thousand short tons vs. 62,327 thousand short tons].

Ironically, EIA’s data was released just days before the federal government issued its “Fourth National Climate Assessment” which underscores the impacts of climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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