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EIA reports a rise in CO2 emissions

From the January 14, 2014 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published January 14, 2014

Once all data are in, U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2013 are expected to be roughly 2 percent above the 2012 level, largely because of a small increase in coal consumption in the electric power sector, the Energy Information Administration said yesterday. "Coal has regained some market share from natural gas since a low in April 2012; however the impact on overall emissions trends remains fairly small," the agency said.

The EIA estimates that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels increased by 2.1 percent in 2013 from the previous year. Emissions are forecast to rise 0.7 percent in 2014, and the agency expects no change in 2015.

The increase in emissions in 2013 "primarily reflected growth in coal use for electricity generation in response to higher natural gas prices relative to coal," the agency said. Coal emissions are projected to decline by 2.5 percent in 2015 as the power sector responds to the Environmental Protection Agency's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards regulations by increasing coal plant retirements. 

Emissions in 2013 are slightly more than 10 percent below 2005 levels, "a significant contribution" toward the goal of a 17 percent reduction in emissions from the 2005 level by 2020 that was adopted by the Obama administration, the EIA said. This level of reduction is expected to continue through 2015, according to EIA's most recent Short-Term Energy Outlook.

CO2 emissions from energy activities declined four out of six years since their 2007 peak, and were historically low (12 percent below the 2005 level) in 2012, the agency said. From 2005 to 2013, the main drivers of a changing U.S. energy landscape included:

•    Weak economic growth, dampening growth in energy demand compared to pre-recession expectations;
•    Continuously improving energy efficiency across the economy, including buildings and transportation;
•    High energy prices over the past four years, with the exception of natural gas, since about 2010;
•    An abundant and inexpensive supply of natural gas, resulting from the widespread use of new production technologies for shale gas; and
•   Power sector decarbonization since 2010, as natural gas and renewables displaced coal.


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