The resurgence of coal has boosted emissions in the United States in 2021
Newly released data reveals the extent and details of U.S. carbon emissions as the economy rebounds from COVID-19 restrictions, highlighting how the White House climate targets may become out of reach. scope in the absence of major new policies.
Driving the news: America’s global warming greenhouse gas emissions increased in 2021 compared to 2020, largely due to an increase in the use of coal, according to a new report from climate consultancy Rhodium Group .
Why is this important: The report focuses on electricity and transportation sector trends as the main reason for the rebound in emissions and makes it clear that the emissions trend puts the country further when it comes to meeting its emissions targets. under the Paris Climate Agreement.
The big picture: U.S. emissions were up 6.2% from 2020 levels, but they were still around 5% below those in the pre-pandemic year of 2019. The new report, released Monday and based on preliminary data shows that emissions grew slightly faster than the economy did.
- The report highlights the 17% jump in coal-fired electricity generation from 2020, as well as an increase in road transport, mainly in the form of freight transport.
- The United States went from 22.2% lower emissions from 2005 levels in 2020 to just 17.4% below 2005 levels last year, according to the report. The United States aims to reduce its emissions by 50 to 52% from 2005 levels by 2030.
Details: The Rhodium report shows that the two sectors with the greatest increase in emissions compared to 2020 are transport, followed by electricity.
- With transportation being the largest source of emissions in the United States, much of the increase was due to increased demand for consumer goods, which kept freight trucks on the road, while that everyday life has never returned to normal for passenger vehicles.
- In fact, road freight was the only mode of transport that Rhodium said exceeded 2019 emissions last year, with overall diesel demand increasing 9% from 2020 levels and reaching 0.4% in the year. above 2019 levels.
- The electricity sector, which is the second net source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, saw its emissions jump 6% above 2020 levels, although they remained at 4% below 2019 levels.
- The reason for the increase in emissions, according to Rhodium, is “a sharp increase” in coal production, which amounted to 17% from the previous year.
- This was the first annual increase in coal production seen in the United States since 2014. The general trend has been a decline in coal use and renewables have increasingly gained market share.
The context: The reason for the return of coal in some way has to do with market conditions, as natural gas prices have reached more than double their 2020 rate, largely due to the drop in production as a result of the COVID-linked oil price collapse in 2020, Rhodium said.
- The production of natural gas fell by 3% in 2021, while renewables increased by 4%.
- Renewable energy has taken a new step forward, accounting for 20% of electricity production in the United States in 2021, according to the report.
What they say : Kate Larsen, partner at Rhodium and co-author of the report, said the rebound in emissions is “largely a story about the rebound in coal” due to rising costs of natural gas.
- “I think this is a sign that the fate of our greenhouse gas emissions is largely in the hands of oil and gas producers, as the natural gas market is one of the main drivers of the economy. decline in coal and US emission reductions over the past decade, âLarsen told Axios. “This would not have happened if we had had regulatory safety nets or other means to support cleaner fuels.”
- The lack of progress on federal climate legislation could ensure that momentum continues, Larsen said.