Led by steep declines in coal, US energy sector emissions fell 1.7% last year

Dive Brief:

  • Energy-related carbon emissions in the United States declined 1.7% last year, to 5,170 million metric tons (MMmt), largely due to a steep drop in the amount of coal-fired generation being utilized.
  • The U.S. Energy Information Administration said energy-related CO2 emissions in 2016 from petroleum and natural gas increased 1.1% and 0.9%, respectively, while coal-related emissions decreased 8.6%.
  • The agency said that by comparing the 1.7% decline in energy-related CO2 with a 1.6% estimate of economic growth, the United States last year decreased the carbon intensity of the economy 3.3% last year.

Dive Insight:

The United States continues to make advances on clean energy, but there are some signs that the progress may be slowing. 

While the carbon intensity of the U.S. economy continues to decline, in 2015 the drop was more than 5%. And the transportation sector actually saw an increase in CO2 emissions, up 1.9% last year. While the declining use of coal-fired energy helped reduce overall emissions, the emissions from gas and petroleum were both up.

CO2 emissions from the electric power sector fell by 4.9% in 2016, EIA said. "A significant reduction in coal use for electricity generation was offset by increased generation from natural gas and renewable sources," the agency concluded.

Overall, EIA said the analysis reveals about a 5% decline in the carbon intensity of the power sector—a rate that was also realized in 2015. "Since 1973, no two consecutive years have seen a decline of this magnitude, and only one other year (2009) has seen a similar decline," the agency said.

Source: EIA


Earlier this year, a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance concluded the United States had successfully "decoupled" its economy from energy demand. The Gross Domestic Product is up 12% since 2007, while energy use is down 3.6%, according to the firm's analysis.

In its October Short-Term Energy Outlook, the EIA reported that U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions totaled 2,530 million metric tons in the first six months of 2016 — the lowest level for the first six months of the year since 1991. 

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