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US emissions fell 2.1% in 2019. Here’s why

The US saw a 2.1% fall in greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, according to a new report titled “Preliminary US Emissions Estimates for 2019” by independent research company Rhodium Group.

This was due to a decrease in coal plants, which resulted in an emissions drop of 190 million metric tons.

The 2019 fall is good news, seeing how there was a rise of 3.4% in 2018. Further, renewables were up 6% in 2019. But the bad news is, it’s not enough.

There has been little progress in reducing CO2 in other sectors. For example, industry is now a larger source of emissions than coal-fired power, and growing.

The report states:

Coal-fired power generation fell by a record 18% year-on-year to its lowest level since 1975. An increase in natural gas generation offset some of the climate gains from this coal decline, but overall power sector emissions still decreased by almost 10%.

Unfortunately, far less progress was made in other sectors of the economy. Transportation emissions remained relatively flat [drop by 0.3%]. Emissions rose from buildings [2.2%], industry [0.6%], and other parts of the economy [agriculture, waste, land use, oil and gas methane, etc. — 4.4%], though less than in 2018. All told, net US [greenhouse gas] emissions ended 2019 slightly higher than at the end of 2016.

At roughly 12% below 2005 levels, the US is at risk of missing its Copenhagen Accord target of a 17% reduction by the end of 2020, and is still a long way off from the 26-28% reduction by 2025 pledged under the Paris Agreement [which of course, the Trump administration withdrew the US from].

Electrek’s Take

This report is a good reminder that natural gas (pictured is a pipeline) is a fossil fuel. Its rise in popularity is because it’s cheap. (The US Energy Information Administration says there’s enough to last 80 years — even more reason to keep up the momentum with renewables.) Natural gas may be cleaner than coal, but it still causes harmful emissions. Further, the report states:

There are low-cost technology solutions to reduce oil and gas methane emissions, but their deployment at scale requires strengthening regulations that the Trump administration instead has been weakening.

The US has the resources and technology to continue to reduce emissions. It needs collective momentum, which is happening at local and state levels. It needs the desire at the federal level, and the federal government needs to stop supporting the fossil-fuel industry. Because the “all-of-the-above” approach the Trump administration takes isn’t going to work.

Photo: Ring of Fire

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.