According to U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data through August and EIA estimates for September through December carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the U.S. energy sector could be 11% lower in 2020 compared to 2019 levels. According to values published in EIA’s December Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), EIA expects CO2 emissions in 2020 to fall by 19% for coal, by 13% for petroleum, and by 2% for natural gas. Many of this year’s changes in energy-related CO2 emissions are attributed to the effects the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. energy consumption was heavily affected by responses the pandemic, including working from home, stay-at-home measures, closed or limited operating hours for businesses, and travel restrictions. In April, monthly U.S. energy consumption fell to a 30-year low and emissions fell to a record low.
Petroleum accounted for an estimated 45% of U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2020, and most of those emissions were from the transportation sector. CO2 emissions from petroleum in the transportation sector fell to 102 million metric tons in April 2020. Natural gas, which accounted for an estimated 36% of U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2020, is consumed in several sectors. The electric power sector consumes the most natural gas of any sector, and EIA estimates that in 2020, although electricity consumption declined slightly, the use of natural gas to generate electricity increased. Coal CO2 emissions this year could reach the lowest annual level (4,597 million metric tons, or 19% of the total) in EIA’s annual emissions series that dates back to 1973.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review and Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO).