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US Emissions Are Worse Than We Thought

Originally published in the ECOreport

Only months ago, US GHG emissions seemed to be shrinking. Apologists for natural gas productions seized upon this as proof LNG is a transition fuel to a greener economy in the future. The latest U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) report shows this trend has reversed itself. CO2 emissions from fossil fuels are up 2.74%, compared to 2013. As this figure does not include methane, which is 20 times more potent than CO2 over time, US emissions are worse than we thought.

There is also good news. Renewable energy usage is up. Biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind now produce 11.68% of domestic energy production and 9.89% of consumption.

Screenshot-2014-10-08-04.37.28

In Germany, where there are more renewable energy sources to draw from, the number of conventional energy plants may have become a problem. According to Phillip Hiersemenzel, who handles media relations for Younicos, they are actually blocking the way for renewables to contribute more than 30% of that nation’s energy. His solution is battery storage plants. If Germany were to adopt this technology in sufficient numbers, Hiersemenzel claims the annual renewable content could be 60% today. They could take 25 fossil fuel producing plants offline. He did not say how long it would take to install this infrastructure, if they had the funding.

The US may not be as far behind as it looks. Younicos is actually using other companies’ batteries, and their contribution is software. There are US companies working on similar programs. American companies are also experimenting with battery storage parks. Both nations need improvements to their grids, before they can introduce a large influx of renewable energy.

If 60% renewable content is the next finish line, it is not certain who will be the first to reach it. We only know that Germany is presently in the lead. It is still the measuring post to see what is working and what is not.

Screenshot 2014-10-09 10.10.09

Screenshot 2014-10-09 10.13.34

Meanwhile US emissions are increasing. The worst offenders are US citizens whose residences are producing 16.73% more CO2 than they did two years ago. This underlines the necessity for people to take individual responsibility! The commercial sector is next, at 10.27%. The electrical power and industrial sector emissions – where everyone likes to point the finger – rose 6.89% and 3.18% respectively.

CO2 emissions from fossil fuels are up: coal 12.32%, natural gas 7.31% and petroleum emissions 0.81%

“The growth in U.S. CO2 emissions is clear wake-up call that much more needs to be done to accelerate the growth of renewable energy sources, as well as improved energy efficiency, if the nation is to successfully address climate change,” writes Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign.

Screenshot-2014-10-08-15.17.14-1026x576

America’s virtually ignored methane emissions may become an even greater concern. Though only 9% of US emissions are methane, it is the principal component of natural gas. Any moves to curtail production also touch the fracking boom.

According to a recent article from the Center for American Progress:

“Methane emissions from the venting and flaring of oil and natural gas should be of particular concern to policymakers because emissions from this practice can be avoided. Just as importantly, usable natural gas that is currently wasted through venting and flaring—due to inadequate infrastructure—can and should be captured for future use. A 2010 report from the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, found that roughly 5 percent of all federal onshore natural gas produced in the United States is wasted through venting and flaring. Furthermore, the report stated that a remarkable 40 percent of this gas could be “economically captured with currently available control technologies.” Unless policymakers enact reforms to reduce waste, taxpayers could conservatively lose almost $800 million over the next decade due to the venting and flaring of natural gas from public lands.”

Screenshot-2014-10-08-15.43.59

The essential message for methane reduction, as well as CO2, would appear to be the government’s resolve. These problems can be solved if there is a will to do so. Some would argue that the first step is a National Energy Policy that lays out solid goals to aim for.

Notes on illustrations, in descending order:

  1. Primary Energy Consumption by Sector & Source
  2. RD-7P Flowing to Flare Boom New gas well opened up to flare boom on PVDII via Expro skid. Flowing temperature required in riser to raise tree by expansion and allow centralization in conductor.- Courtesy Ken Doerr, CC by SA, 2.0
  3. Residential Sector Energy Consumption, by source 1949-2013, note the increase in electricity
  4. Total Residential emissions January-June, comparisons for 2012, 2013 & 2014 
  5. natural gas flare night 02 – Evanson Place – Arnegard North Dakota – 2013-07-03 – Courtesy Tim Evanson, CC by SA, 2.0
 
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Written By

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the Cortes Currents (formerly the ECOreport), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of British Columbia. He writes for both writes for both Clean Technica and PlanetSave on Important Media. He is a research junkie who has written over 2,000 articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

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