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USA carbon emissions rise by 3.4% in 2018

11 January 2019

Emissions rose 3.4 per cent in 2018, the largest increase in the United States since 2010 when the economy began to grow after a long period recession. Emissions from buildings and homes was way up, due in part to an exceptionally cold winter in parts of the USA past year.

"We have lost momentum". Natural-gas fired power emits about half as much carbon as coal but still contributes to climate change. "This year makes it abundantly clear that energy market trends alone - the low cost of natural gas, the increasing competitiveness of renewables - are not enough to deliver sustained declines in United States emissions".

Biodiesel is one commercially available, known solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to almost 90 percent compared to petroleum diesel, yet the federal government continues to set annual renewable volume obligations for biodiesel in the Renewable Fuel Standard well below volumes the US biodiesel industry can produce.

New estimates on us carbon emissions in 2018 show there is a lot more work to be done if there is any hope in meeting Paris Agreement targets, especially as the Environmental Protection Agency continues to rollback climate-related policies. "There's no question", Rob Jackson, a Stanford University professor who studies emissions trends, said of both USA and global efforts to steer the world toward a more sustainable future.

The Trump administration, which announced its intent to leave the 2015 Paris Agreement, is relaxing Obama-era rules on emissions from power plants and vehicles as it seeks to boost production of oil, gas and coal.

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In other words, an unprecedented pace for the U.S. "Such political developments, including the rollback of domestic climate policies in the USA, tend to have a considerable lead time before you can actually see their reflection in physical emission trends". Under the deal, the US committed to cutting its carbon emissions by at least 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

Environmental groups have decried the administration's moves to relax emissions standards.

The spike occurred even though 2018 saw a record amount of shutdowns of power plants fired by coal, the fuel richest in carbon output when burned. Between 2007 and the end of 2015, emissions declined by an average of 1.6 percent each year, the report shows. The result is that any chance of hitting the original Obama goal has diminished, said the Rhodium Group's Houser.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Transportation remains the top contributor to US CO2 emissions What contributed the most? They found not only that going beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius would have devastating impacts, but also that the world has only about a decade to make the "unprecedented" changes necessary to hold warming at this level.

The U.S. joined nearly 200 other countries to sign the agreement in 2015. All were economies heavily reliant on fossil fuels - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russian Federation. "The gap is even wider headed into 2019", the report says. New research suggests a broader view might be called for. "Which is a big risk, given that we have to bend the curve by 2020".

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"As carbon emissions continue to climb, it is more important than ever that we do everything we can to support low-carbon fuels like biodiesel", Don Scott, sustainability director for the National Biodiesel Board, told Biodiesel Magazine.

The key issue now is how all of this plays out over the next two years, leading up to 2020.

Many had hoped that carbon cutting actions at state or city level could in some way keep the U.S. on track to meet its commitments made under the Paris climate agreement.

That leaves a world facing a make-or-break decade for emissions reductions still unsure of exactly what role the United States will play, if any. "If you've got all presidential candidates with the exception of one running for election saying, 'I'm prepared to commit to bigger reductions, ' then that will resonate".

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USA carbon emissions rise by 3.4% in 2018