Carbon emissions from energy sector will be lower in 2020

Published on December 11, 2020 by Dave Kovaleski

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the U.S. energy sector could be 11 percent lower in 2020 than in 2019.

EIA’s December Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) report said CO2 emissions are expected to fall by 19 percent for coal, 13 percent for petroleum, and 2 percent for natural gas in 2020. The reductions are mostly attributable to the economic and behavioral effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on energy consumption. These factors include more people working from home, stay-at-home measures, closed or limited operating hours for several types of businesses, and travel restrictions. In April, monthly U.S. energy consumption fell to a 30-year low, and emissions fell to a record low.

EIA found that petroleum accounted for an estimated 45 percent of U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2020, primarily from the transportation sector. Natural gas accounted for an estimated 36 percent of U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2020. The electric power sector consumed the most natural gas of any sector. While electricity consumption declined slightly in 2020, the use of natural gas to generate electricity increased.

Also, coal CO2 emissions could reach the lowest annual level — 4,597 million metric tons, or 19 percent of the total – since EIA began tracking annual emissions in 1973. Coal is most prevalent in the electric power sector, but it has lost market share to natural gas and renewables since peaking in 2007.