Two reports/news releases issued by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) during the past few weeks give the impression that the United States is making consistent and significant progress in reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the energy sector. However, an analysis by the SUN DAY Campaign of more recent, but largely unpublicized, EIA data indicate this positive news is both obsolete and misleading.
On September 25, EIA issued a report/news release entitled “U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions decreased 0.9% in 2017.”
On October 29, EIA issued a second, similar report/news release entitled “Carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. power sector have declined 28% since 2005.”
The SUN DAY Campaign is not challenging the factual accuracy of either report, both of which summarize data only through the end of 2017. However, more recent data provided by EIA in its “Monthly Energy Review” paint a very different picture and suggest reasonable cause for alarm.
The latest “Monthly Energy Review” (released on October 26 with data through July 31, 2018) reveals that U.S. CO2 emissions from energy consumption during each of the first seven months of 2018 exceeded the levels reported for the corresponding months in 2017.
In fact, U.S. CO2 emissions from energy consumption (including biomass, geothermal, and non-biomass waste) during the first seven months of 2018 are actually 2.81% higher than a year ago. Those from fossil fuels alone (coal, petroleum, natural gas) are 2.90% higher while those from just natural gas zoomed upward by 12.00%.
Further, the higher actual levels of CO2 emissions thus far reported for this year exceed the 2.2% increase recently forecast by EIA for calendar year 2018 in its latest “Short-Term Energy Outlook” (issued October 10). Perhaps the final 12-month actual figure will more closely match EIA’s projection but the trend-line to date is not encouraging.
Overall, if the current growth rate continues, CO2 emissions from energy consumption in 2018 will be back up to approximately the level they were in 2015, thereby reversing the downward and encouraging trajectory EIA’s earlier reports highlighted.
“EIA’s recent, well-publicized reports unintentionally give those concerned about global climate change a false sense of security by implying that the U.S. is moving in the right direction vis-à-vis its CO2 emissions,” noted Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “That is not correct and in light of recent warning by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of how little time is left to dramatically reverse greenhouse gas emissions, the publication of out-of-date information is counter-productive and potentially dangerous.”
Consequently, in a November 2 letter to EIA Administrator Linda Capuano, the SUN DAY Campaign urged EIA to issue a separate study or analysis that focuses on the most recent CO2 emissions data and to include the most up-to-date information on current CO2 emissions in any future reports that discuss historic CO2 trends.
The SUN DAY Campaign also questioned whether the increased CO2 emissions thus far recorded for 2018 are primarily weather-driven as EIA has suggested or whether they are the consequence of the Trump Administration’s heavy emphasis on expanded fossil fuel development and use as well as its efforts to reverse and undo existing or proposed public policies implemented during the Obama and earlier Administrations that were designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
News item from SUN DAY