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Greater Efficiency Drives Down U.S. Carbon Emissions

digifly840 / Pixabay
digifly840 / Pixabay

Energy-efficient buildings and declining energy demand in heavy industry are cutting carbon dioxide emissions, bringing down electricity prices, and worsening the outlook for coal in the United States, according to a benchmarking study published last week by Bank of America, NRDC, Ceres, and three major U.S. utilities.

U.S. power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions were 14% higher in 2014 than they were in 1990,” Climate Central reports. “But the good news for the climate is that emissions fell about 15% between 2005 and 2014, and early data suggest that they fell another 6% between 2014 and 2015, reducing emissions to just above 1990 levels, the report says.”

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Meanwhile, spurred on by Clean Air Act regulations, “utilities have cut their nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions—major air pollutants—by more than 75% since 1990, and mercury emissions were cut 55% since 2000.”

The study by Concord, MA-based M.J. Bradley & Associates noted that the U.S. is producing more zero-carbon electricity from wind and solar, while the combination of mercury regulations and low natural gas prices is prompting utilities to replace coal-fired generation with gas. “Renewable energy is widely expected to continue its strong growth, which will put the electricity sector in an excellent position to help the U.S. meet its international commitments,” said NRDC senior policy analyst Starla Yeh.

Climate Central notes that “the states with the highest power plant carbon emissions rates are Kentucky, Wyoming, West Virginia, Indiana, and Missouri—all states heavily dependent on coal, according to the report. States with the lowest emissions rates are Vermont, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and Maine.”