After a solid decline for the past three years, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States rose in 2018. According to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), power generation, natural gas and oil consumption resulted in an emissions increase of 3.4 percent, marking the second largest annual gain since 1996.
The only year that emissions increased at a more significant rate was 2010, when emissions went up 3.6 percent after a huge recession-driven decline the year before.
Even though a record number of coal-fired power plants closed last year, natural gas replaced the majority of the lost generation rather than instead renewables — and also fed the demand for electricity growth.
The result of using natural gas over renewables meant a 1.9 percent increase in power sector emissions. However, the biggest source of emissions for the third year in a row was the transportation sector due to the growing demand for diesel and jet fuel that offset a noticeable decline in gasoline consumption.
Because of unusual cold weather in the beginning of 2018, the building and industrial sectors also showed significant emissions gains. But, there has also been very little progress in these sectors when it comes to decarbonization strategies.
In the United States, CO2 emissions from fossil fuels peaked back in 2007 at approximately 6 billion tons, but thanks to the great recession and the switch in power generation from coal to natural gas, wind and solar, emissions fell by 12.1 percent (an average of 1.6 percent per year) between 2007 and 2015.
Yet in the last couple of years the pace of emissions decline has slowed down. Not to mention, the lack of a proper climate change policy will leave the U.S. at risk of putting the Paris Agreement reduction goals (26-28 percent cut below 2005 levels by 2025) out of reach.
Image via cwizner