The United States is on track for a 2.2% increase in its energy-related greenhouse gas emissions in 2018—the year when global diplomats are expected to tackle the job of speeding up their climate response under the Paris agreement.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration is largely blaming the expected shift on the weather, not on energy choices dictated the anti-regulatory, climate-denying White House to which it now reports.
“In 2018, energy-related CO2 emissions are expected to increase for each fossil fuel—petroleum, natural gas, and coal—for a total increase of 111 million metric tons,” the federal agency states. “The most recent year with emissions increases in all three fossil fuels was 2013, when emissions rose by 128 million metric tons from the previous year.”
The projection shows natural gas accounting for the lion’s share of the increase, but the EIA’s narrative points to the country’s first annual decline in carbon-free electricity since 2012.
“After two years of higher-than-average levels of precipitation in some areas, hydropower generation is projected to decrease in 2018 by 30 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh),” the agency writes. “Beyond hydro, increases in other renewable and nuclear generation (20 billion kWh and 4 billion kWh, respectively) are not enough to offset the expected hydropower decrease.”
And “because total power generation is expected to increase in 2018, electricity generation from coal- and natural gas-fired sources is projected to increase by a combined 97 billion kWh.”
The EIA report comes at a moment when the Trump administration might try to repeal tax incentives for solar and wind generators that may well be able to bring on additional capacity in time to reduce or eliminate a GHG increase next year.