The United States Energy Information Administration has published new numbers this week which show energy-related CO2 emissions for 2018 will increase by 3%, undermining its own fragile attempts to highlight 2017’s drop in CO2 emissions against the likely increase in 2018 emissions that has been evident throughout the year.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) published its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook on Tuesday in which it outlined the likely carbon dioxide emissions increase expected in 2018 which could effectively serve to unravel the declines seen in recent years. The EIA points to an increase in natural gas usage during 2018 for heating during the colder months and for electric generation to support more cooling during a warmer summer than in 2017 as the two major causes for an increase in emissions in 2018.
This similarly leads the EIA to predict a 1.9% decline in emissions in 2019 as forecasts expect temperatures to return to something more approximating “normal” conditions in the United States next year. “But given the Trump Administration’s relentless drive simultaneously to expand fossil fuel development and use and to roll back Obama-era climate policies,” warned Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign, “it is probably foolish to accept EIA’s expectation of a decline in CO2 emissions next year.”
According to Ken Bossong with the SUN DAY Campaign, the likelihood of an increase to CO2 emissions in 2018 is not a complete surprise, and the EIA has been hinting at such in its Short-Term Energy Outlooks (STEOs) all year — though it has done a good job of failing to publicize its findings in the face of a President more than willing to tout other figures as proof his country’s emissions are on the decline. “Though not well-publicized, EIA has acknowledged in its monthly STEO reports since the beginning of this year that an increase in CO2 emissions was expected in 2018,” Ken Bossong wrote in an email to reporters. “However, the level of the anticipated increase had been relatively small. For the first six months of 2018, EIA forecast, on average, an increase of only 1.3% in 2018 CO2 emissions. For the four-month period July – October 2018, the average of EIA’s forecasts for the increase in CO2 levels in 2018 rose to 2.1%. Its highest previous forecast for the year – a 2.5% increase – was issued on November 6.”
So, while the EIA does not appear to have been actively lying to the population about the state of the country’s emissions, it has done nothing to disabuse people of the idea that 2017’s CO2 emissions decrease was the new normal, and that more of the same would be seen in 2018. Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign, spoke to me via email and further elaborated on the EIA’s willingness to present one story while another, more important story was developing under cover of its publicity.
“By putting out multiple news releases with old data in September & October 2018 that highlighted a drop in 2017, while not simultaneously reporting the data it also had showing a reversal and significant increase during the first six, seven, eight, etc. months of 2018, was misleading,” Ken Bossong explained. “It was obvious then that the media would not report the change (because they did not know about it) and that Administration officials would hype the drop & take credit for it, but conveniently overlook the reversal that — we believe — was brought about in large part by the change in Trump policies. And that is exactly what happened. And given the short time frame we may have left to dramatically reverse CO2 emissions, we feel it was and is irresponsible to issue news releases that could lull people into a sense that the problem is under control and CO2 emissions are continuing to drop.”
As such, in terms of carbon dioxide emissions in million metric tonnes (MMT), figures have dropped from 5,186 MMT in 2016 to 5,144 MMT in 2017, will increase to 5,299 MMT in 2018, before dropping back to an estimated 5,234 MMT in 2019.
On the flip side, in the same STEO, the EIA revealed it expects US solar generation to rise from 212,000 megawatt-hours per day (MWh/d) in 2017 to 268,000 MWh/d in 2018 — an increase of 27%, before jumping a further 13% in 2019 to 303,000 MWh/d.