Jump in Coal Use Pushes Up US Emissions

Increase outstrips economic growth, making Biden's goal harder to reach
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 10, 2022 4:58 PM CST
Emissions Rise Makes US Goal Harder to Reach
A coal-fired power plant in Utah.   (Getty/helt2)

(Newser) – Greenhouse gas emissions rose last year, making the US goal of a 50% reduction by 2030 that much harder to reach. The increase was 6.2% over 2020, pushed by a 17% jump in coal-fired electricity, the Washington Post reports. An analysis by the Rhodium Group, a research firm, showed the first increase in the use of coal since 2014. Overall, emissions were below pre-pandemic levels, but the trend is the problem. It would seem to indicate that as nations' economies bounce back from COVID-19 shutdowns, the pandemic alone won't do much to curb global warming, per the Verge.

And it means the pandemic is not so far leaving the US with a greener economy. "In an ideal world, we want the economy to rebound, but not the emissions," said a co-author of the analysis. Transportation, the biggest source source of emissions, made the biggest recovery, at 10% over 2020. Diesel fuel outsold gasoline, as trucks moved freight that eventually turned into home deliveries. The Rhodium analyst attributed the coal numbers "almost entirely due to high natural gas prices"; oil and gas producers cut production as lockdowns reduced demand, Kate Larsen said.

Noting that emissions grew faster than the economy, Larsen said "there weren't any significant policies to make economic growth less carbon-intensive," per CNN. Policies will have to change, she said, for the US to have a chance to keep President Biden's promise to cut fossil fuel emissions in half from 2005 levels by 2030. It was just November when Biden made the pledge at the UN climate summit in Scotland. "We'll demonstrate to the world the United States is not only back at the table but hopefully leading by the power of our example," he said. (Read more greenhouse-gas emissions stories.)

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