Report: Carbon emissions from US power plants have dropped 28% since 2005

A new report from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) says that CO2 emissions from power plants have declined an astonishing 28% since 2005.

Carbon emissions from power plants make up 34% of the total energy-related CO2 emissions in the US, followed by transportation and industrial activity.

U.S. electric power sector carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) have declined 28% since 2005 because of slower electricity demand growth and changes in the mix of fuels used to generate electricity. EIA has calculated that CO2 emissions from the electric power sector totaled 1,744 million metric tons (MMmt) in 2017, the lowest level since 1987.

In the United States, most of the changes in energy-related CO2 emissions have been in the power sector. Since 2005, as power sector CO2 emissions fell by 28%, CO2 emissions from all other energy sectors fell by only 5%. Slower electricity demand growth and changes in the electricity generation mix have played nearly equal roles in reducing U.S. power sector CO2 emissions.

During the period 2005-2017, the US was not party to any climate treaty. And yet US emissions declined dramatically because the market - not government, not any international body - determined where the energy to generate electricity would come from.

In renewable energy, government policies - significantly, tax breaks and not an oppressive regulatory regime - helped drive growth in that sector:

The power sector has become less carbon intensive as natural gas-fired generation displaced coal-fired and petroleum-fired generation and as the noncarbon sources of electricity generation—especially renewables such as wind and solar—have grown. The substitution of natural gas for other fossil fuels has largely been market driven, as ample supplies of lower-priced natural gas and the relative ease of adding natural gas-fired capacity have allowed it to pick up share in electric power generation in many markets. In 2016, natural gas generation surpassed coal as the largest source of electricity generation.

Increases in electricity generation from noncarbon power sources since 2005 also had an effect on emissions from power generation. This growth has been driven largely by state policies and federal tax incentives that encouraged adoption of renewables. In 2005, noncarbon sources accounted for 28% of the U.S. electricity mix. By 2017, that share had grown to 38%. Almost all of this growth was in renewables, including wind and solar, as shares for other noncarbon sources such as nuclear and hydroelectricity remained relatively flat.

Without a doubt, the fracking revolution has done more to reduce carbon emissions than any government program, government incentive, government threat, or diktas from any international body. Even Obama was smart enough to resist the hysterical opposition to fracking from the greens and allow the industry to grow.

Fracking has revolutionized the power sector by bringing enormous amounts of natural gas to the market. This has lowered the price of natural gas, making it far more efficient and much cheaper to burn than coal. Since natural gas emits much less carbon when burned than any other fossile fuel, the resulting decline in emissions was inevitable.

If the world burns up over the next 100 years from global warming, it won't be the fault of the United States.


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