US energy-related CO2 emissions expected to fall this year, almost solely due to a drop in coal use

After an increase in 2018, energy-related CO2 emissions in the US are expected to decrease this year, and a drop in coal consumption is far and away the biggest reason for the change.

The estimates come from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), which forecasts a 2.2% decrease in US energy-related CO2 emissions for 2019, after a 2.7% increase last year:

Nearly all of the forecast decrease is due to fewer emissions from coal consumption. Forecast natural gas CO2 emissions increase and petroleum CO2 emissions remain virtually unchanged.

The first three months of 2019 and 2018 were roughly equal in CO2 emissions — the first quarter of each year typically has the highest emissions. However, the EIA expects that mild temperatures will keep energy demand lower for the rest of the year.

But with coal-fired power plant retirements on the upswing — with no end in sight — the largest decrease in CO2 emissions since 2015 is expected. Nearly 92% of the coal used in the US goes toward electric power. Thus: lower electricity demand, lower coal-fired electricity, and lower emissions.

Natural gas is on the rise, but that increase isn’t enough to offset coal’s decrease, as natural gas is less carbon-intensive than coal.

The EIA expects CO2 emissions from petroleum consumption to be flat this year, after increasing in each of the last six years. Petroleum made up 45% of energy-related CO2 emissions in 2018.

Electrek’s Take

The hits just keep on coming for anyone still somehow seeing coal as a viable power option going forward. The fossil fuel wasn’t just surpassed in capacity by renewables this year, but also fell behind in electricity generation, at least for now.

This is also another example of why clean energy advocates are looking past coal and to natural gas as the next target to take down. And petroleum may not be on the rise, but it’s still the CO2 emissions leader, and decreasing its use can stand some extra attention as well.

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