By - Jim Vess

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions rose across all sectors in 2018, Rhodium says

Energize Weekly, January 16, 2019

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions linked to energy use rose for the first time in three years in 2018—with all sectors from power generation to manufacturing to home heating—posting increases.

There was a 3.4 percent increase in emissions, according to a study by the Rhodium Group, an energy and economic analytics consultant.

“This marks the second largest annual gain in more than two decades—surpassed only by 2010 when the economy bounced back from the Great Recession,” the study, based on preliminary data for power generation, as well as natural gas and oil consumption, said.

The Rhodium emission estimates were only for energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, which account for three-quarters of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

The utility sector had been showing declines in emissions as coal-fired power plants were retired—13.7 gigawatts (GW) of coal plants had retired or were set to retire by the end of 2018, Rhodium said.

Nevertheless, power sector emissions were up in 2018 by 1.9 percent, 34 million metric tons, as 14.9 GW of natural gas plants were added, double the amount of wind and solar.

Transportation continued to be the largest single source of carbon emissions, growing an estimated 1 percent, about the same growth rate as 2017.

A drop in the demand for gasoline, it was down 0.1 percent, was offset by increases in the consumption of diesel, up 3.1 percent and jet fuels, 3 percent, as trucking and air travel increased over the year.

“The largest emissions growth in 2018 occurred in the two sectors most often ignored in clean energy and climate policymaking: buildings and industry,” the study said.

Some of emissions increase for buildings was due to unusually cold weather at the start of the year—the number of heating degree days across the U.S. increased 15 percent in the first quarter of 2018.

“But it also highlights the limited progress made in developing decarbonization strategies for these sectors,” Rhodium said.

Direct emissions from residential and commercial buildings increased 10 percent in 2018 to their highest level since 2004. This is primarily from fuel oil, diesel and natural gas used for heating and cooking.

“While there have been modest improvements in the efficiency of oil and natural gas furnaces, it is not enough to offset the emissions impact of population growth and increased demand for heating and other non-electric building energy services,” the analysis said.

Rhodium said its preliminary estimates indicated that the industrial sector posted the largest emission increase for the year at 55 million metric tons. This was primarily due to increased industrial activity.

But without significant changes in policy or major technological breakthroughs, Rhodium said that the industrial sector will become an increasingly larger share of U.S. greenhouse gases.

“We expect it to overtake power as the second leading source of emissions in California by 2020 and to become the leading source of emissions in Texas by 2022,” the study said.

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