U.S. greenhouse gas emissions jumped in 2021

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Recently released data shows the scope and detail of US carbon emissions as the economy recovers from COVID-19 restrictions, highlighting how White House climate targets could be reached absent key new policies .

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Running news: America’s emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases increased in 2021 compared to 2020, largely due to a boom in coal use. new report From the climate consulting firm Rhodium Group.

Why this matters: The report zeroes in on trends in the power sector and transport as a major cause of the emissions boom and makes clear that the emissions trends in countries when it comes to meeting their emissions targets under the Paris climate agreement. takes it further.


big picture: US emissions increased by 6.2% compared to 2020 levels, but they are still down about 5% compared to the pre-pandemic year of 2019. The new report, based on more preliminary data released on Monday, shows that emissions have increased slightly faster. The economy did.

  • The report points to a 17% jump in coal-fired power generation compared to 2020, as well as growth in road transport, much of it in the form of freight.
  • The report shows that emissions in the US were 22.2% below 2005 levels in 2020, down just 17.4% from 2005 levels last year. The US aims to reduce emissions by 50 to 52% from 2005 levels by 2030.

Description: The Rhodium report shows that the two sectors with the largest increase in emissions compared to 2020 were transportation, followed by electric power.

  • With transportation, which comprises the largest source of US emissions, much of the increase was driven by increased demand for consumer goods, which kept freight trucks on the road, while life never returned to normal for passenger vehicles.
  • In fact, road freight was the only mode of transportation that Rhodium says last year surpassed 2019 emissions, with total diesel demand climbing 9% from 2020 levels, and up 0.4% from 2019 levels.
  • The electric power sector, which is the second largest net source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, saw its emissions increase by 6% from 2020 levels, although they remained 4% below 2019 levels.
  • The reason for this increase in emissions, Rhodium says, is a “sharp increase” in coal production, a 17% increase from the year before.
  • This was the first annual increase in coal production seen in the US since 2014. The overall trend has been a decline in the use of coal and renewable energy has gained more market share.
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Reference: Rhodium said the reason for coal’s withdrawal has to do with market conditions, as natural gas prices more than doubled in 2020, mainly due to lower production in 2020 in the wake of COVID-related fall in oil prices .

  • Natural gas production declined by 3% in 2021, while renewables increased by 4%.
  • The report found that renewable energy reached a new milestone, comprising 20% ​​of US electricity generation in 2021.

What are they saying: Kate Larsen, a Rhodium fellow and a co-author of the report, said the rebound in emissions due to rising natural gas costs is “a story about coal rebounding”.

  • “I think this is a sign that the fate of greenhouse gas emissions is largely in the hands of oil and gas producers, as the natural gas market is one of the primary drivers of the decline of coal, and the decline in US emissions over the past decade There has been a decrease,” Larsen told Nerdshala. “This wouldn’t have happened if we had regulatory backstops, or other ways to promote cleaner fuels.”
  • The lack of progress on federal climate legislation may ensure that this dynamic continues, Larsen said.


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