According to new information released yesterday by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), energy-related carbon dioxide emissions for the first six months of 2016 are the lowest in the United States since 1991.
In a special report, EIA explains that U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions from the start of the year through the end of June totaled 2,530 million metric tons. This marks the lowest level of CO2 emissions for the first six months of a year since 1991. For the remainder of the year, EIA predicts in its Short-Term Energy Outlook that energy-associated CO2 emissions will fall to 5,179 million metric ton. This annual figure would mark the lowest annual level since 1992.
According to EIA, mild weather and changes in the fuel mix for electricity generation helped contribute to the decline in CO2 emissions from energy-related sources. For the first six months of the year, for example, the U.S. had the fewest heating degree days since at least 1949, the earliest year for which nationwide data is available. This led to decreased energy demand and an attendant decrease in the emission of CO2. Over, total energy consumption fell 2% from the first six months of 2015. Residential power was down 9% from the previous year.
Shifts in energy portfolios brought on by EPA regulations and market forces also contributed to the decrease in CO2 emissions. The use of both coal and natural gas for power generation decreased in the first six months of 2016 compared to the mar established a year prior. Coal consumption fell 18%, while natural gas use fell just 1%. At the same time, petroleum consumption, aided by low gas prices, was actually up 1%, although that rise was more than offset by the drop in coal and natural gas use.
A smaller factor cited by EIA was increased use of renewables. Use of these power sources, such as hydro, wind, and solar power, was up 9% during the first six months of the year. Wind power accounted for nearly half of this increase. Hydropower, aided by additional precipitation along the west coast, made up more than a third of the increase, while solar power added just 13% of the jump in renewable production.