Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Renewables and Efficiency Made Up 70 Percent of the Drop in U.S. Emissions Since 2007

What reduced carbon emissions? (Credit: Greenpeace Energydesk) Click to enlarge.
Other than a slight uptick from 2012 to 2013, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have been on a slow decline since 2007.  And according to a new report by Greenpeace, 70 percent of that drop was thanks to renewables and energy efficiency.

The data crunching, carried out by Greenpeace energy analyst Lauri Myllyvirta and published by the group’s Energydesk site, dug into the dramatic 21 percent drop that U.S. coal consumption saw from 2007 to 2013.  That was accompanied by a 16 percent fall in the country’s carbon emissions over that same six-year period.  Natural gas generation also spiked over 23 percent in that time span, which has led many observers to credit the North American shale fracking boom with the drop in the emissions that contribute to global warming and climate change.

But burning natural gas also releases carbon dioxide, just in smaller amounts.  So while it made up 44 percent of the hole in energy consumption coal left behind, it only accounted for 30 percent of the drop in carbon emissions.  According to Myllyvirta’s analysis, growth in renewable generation — and wind in particular — contributed to 40 percent of the fall in emissions, and rising use of energy efficiency covered the other 30 percent.

“The supposed climate benefits of fracking have been a big selling point for the shale lobby, but this myth has now been cut down to size by compelling new evidence,” said Myllyvirta.  “Our analysis shows that it was the clean tech boom, not the fracking rush, that slashed the bulk of carbon emissions from the US power sector.”

Renewable energy consumption grew just over 48 percent from 2007 to 2008, making up 35 percent of the energy consumption coal left behind.  Rising energy efficiency measures made up the remaining 21 percent in energy consumption.

The Energydesk study also did not account for any leakage that may occur from the natural gas industry’s infrastructure.  That means natural gas is almost certainly doing considerably less good on the global warming front than even Greenpeace’s numbers suggest, as the methane that makes up natural gas is, pound-for-pound, a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.  Multiple studies suggest the leakage is so bad it completely undoes any climate advantage to burring natural gas.  And a new study published by Nature last Wednesday concluded that, absent a big regulatory crackdown on those leaks, burning more natural gas won’t work as a method to curb global warming.

Read More at Renewables and Efficiency Made Up 70 Percent of the Drop in U.S. Emissions Since 2007

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