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U.S. power sector CO2 emissions fall 8.2 percent in 2019, EIA reports

U.S. power sector carbon dioxide emissions fell by 145 million metric tons last year, leading an overall energy sector CO2 decline of nearly 3 percent nationwide, according to a new report Tuesday by the federal Energy Information Administration.

The rise of renewable energy capacity and gas over coal pushed down power sector emissions by 8.2 percent compared to 2018, the report shows. The overall decline in power CO2 emissions was the second largest on record for any sector, according to the EIA.

The CO2 output by the nations’ energy entities (including power generators) totaled 5,130 million metric tons (MMmt), a 2.8 percent drop from 2018. However, that followed a 2.9 percent increase in the previous year, so the actual energy related emissions are nearly even with 2017.

Overall, U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions have fallen 15 percent from their peak of 6,003 MMmt in 2007, according to the EIA. Energy consumption fell nearly 1 percent in 2019.

The growth of natural gas-fired power generation capacity resulted in a net C02 emissions increase of 3.3 percent related to that resource. Coal-fired power generation carbon emissions fell by 14.6 percent, the largest annual percentage drop of any fuel source since 1973, according to EIA data.

The U.S. now emits less CO2 from coal than from motor gasoline.

Nearly all of the change in CO2 emissions in 2019 arose in the electric power sector. CO2 emissions from the residential and commercial sectors (associated with natural gas and distillate fuel oil consumption, for example) were nearly unchanged from 2018.

The transportation sector has been the largest source of energy-related CO2 emissions since surpassing the power sector in 2016. In 2019, the transportation sector’s energy-related CO2 emissions declined by 0.7 percent as a decrease in motor gasoline-related CO2 emissions (-0.7 percent) and diesel fuel-related CO2 emissions (-1.1 percent) more than offset an increase in jet fuel-related CO2 emissions (1.9 percent).