America’s 2018 carbon emissions – the biggest increase in eight years

Repost from The New York Times

U.S. Carbon Emissions Surged in 2018 Even as Coal Plants Closed

By Brad Plumer, Jan. 8, 2019
Passenger planes at the Phoenix airport in July. Greenhouse gas emissions from airplanes and trucking increased sharply in 2018. Credit: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg

WASHINGTON — America’s carbon dioxide emissions rose by 3.4 percent in 2018, the biggest increase in eight years, according to a preliminary estimate published Tuesday.

Strikingly, the sharp uptick in emissions occurred even as a near-record number of coal plants around the United States retired last year, illustrating how difficult it could be for the country to make further progress on climate change in the years to come, particularly as the Trump administration pushes to roll back federal regulations that limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The estimate, by the research firm Rhodium Group, pointed to a stark reversal. Fossil fuel emissions in the United States have fallen significantly since 2005 and declined each of the previous three years, in part because of a boom in cheap natural gas and renewable energy, which have been rapidly displacing dirtier coal-fired power.

Yet even a steep drop in coal use last year wasn’t enough to offset rising emissions in other parts of the economy. Some of that increase was weather-related: A relatively cold winter led to a spike in the use of oil and gas for heating in areas like New England.

But, just as important, as the United States economy grew at a strong pace last year, emissions from factories, planes and trucks soared. And there are few policies in place to clean those sectors up.

“The big takeaway for me is that we haven’t yet successfully decoupled U.S. emissions growth from economic growth,” said Trevor Houser, a climate and energy analyst at the Rhodium Group.

As United States manufacturing boomed, for instance, emissions from the nation’s industrial sectors — including steel, cement, chemicals and refineries — increased by 5.7 percent.

Policymakers working on climate change at the federal and state level have so far largely shied away from regulating heavy industry, which directly contributes about one-sixth of the country’s carbon emissions. Instead, they’ve focused on decarbonizing the electricity sector through actions like promoting wind and solar power.

But even as power generation has gotten cleaner, those overlooked industrial plants and factories have become a larger source of climate pollution. The Rhodium Group estimates that the industrial sector is on track to become the second-biggest source of emissions in California by 2020, behind only transportation, and the biggest source in Texas by 2022.

There’s a similar story in transportation: Since 2011, the federal government has been steadily ratcheting up fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks, although the Trump administration has proposed to halt the toughening of those standards after 2021.

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There are signs that those standards have been effective. In the first nine months of 2018, Americans drove slightly more miles in passenger vehicles than they did over that span the previous year, yet gasoline use dropped by 0.1 percent, thanks in part to fuel-efficient vehicles and electric cars.

But, as America’s economy expanded last year, trucking and air travel also grew rapidly, leading to a 3 percent increase in diesel and jet fuel use and spurring an overall rise in transportation emissions for the year. Air travel and freight have also attracted less attention from policymakers to date and are considered much more difficult to electrify or decarbonize.

Demand for electricity surged last year, too, as the economy grew, and renewable power did not expand fast enough to meet the extra demand. As a result, natural gas filled in the gap, and emissions from electricity rose an estimated 1.9 percent. (Natural gas produces lower CO2 emissions than coal when burned, but it is still a fossil fuel.)

Transmission towers near the coal-fired Will County Generating Station in Romeoville, Ill.CreditDaniel Acker/Bloomberg

Even with last year’s increase, carbon dioxide emissions in the United States are still down 11 percent since 2005, a period of considerable economic growth. Trump administration officials have often cited that broader trend as evidence that the country can cut its climate pollution without strict regulations.

But if the world wants to avert the most dire effects of global warming, major industrialized countries, including the United States, will have to cut their fossil-fuel emissions much more drastically than they are currently doing.

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Last month, scientists reported that greenhouse gas emissions worldwide rose at an accelerating pace in 2018, putting the world on track to face some of the most severe consequences of global warming sooner than expected.

Under the Paris climate agreement, the United States vowed to cut emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The Rhodium Group report warns that this target now looks nearly unattainable without a flurry of new policies or technological advances to drive down emissions throughout the economy.

“The U.S. has led the world in emissions reductions in the last decade thanks in large part to cheap gas displacing coal,” said Jason Bordoff, director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, who was not involved in the analysis. “But that has its limits, and markets alone will not deliver anywhere close to the pace of decarbonization needed without much stronger climate policy efforts that are unfortunately stalled if not reversed under the Trump administration.”

The Rhodium Group created its estimate by using government data for the first three quarters of 2018 combined with more recent industry data. The United States government will publish its official emissions estimates for all of 2018 later this year.

For more news on climate and the environment, follow @NYTClimate on Twitter.
Brad Plumer is a reporter covering climate change, energy policy and other environmental issues for The Times’s climate team. @bradplumer

Benicia Chamber Players – Sunday, January 20

[Editor: I was asked to help publicize this great new local concert series.  Mark your calendar!  – R.S.] 
George Day writes:

I am working with Clif Foster and the Benicia Chamber Players to help promote their shows in Benicia.  I’m taking the liberty of attaching a flyer for their upcoming performance on Jan. 20….

For the past several years, the BCP has played 4 times a year on Sunday afternoons in the Capitol Building (a great venue with terrific acoustics).  However the powers that be in Sacramento (CA State Parks Dept.) decided that could not continue, despite the support of the local Ranger (Jon), the Mayor, and various other community leaders.  As a result there were no performances in the fall of 2018, but there will be 3 performances in Spring 2019 in a new location (the Congregational Church on W. Second Street) versus the usual 2 in the fall, 2 in the spring.  Moreover, I spoke with Jon at the Capitol today who told me that most events formerly held in the Capitol have had to be cancelled.

Benicia Chamber Players
Performing works by
Schubert and Haydn
Sunday January 20, 2019 3PM
Community Congregational Church

The Benicia Chamber Players will perform the Schubert Quartet in G Major (D887) and the Haydn Opus 76 No. 2 at the Benicia Community Congregational Church, 1305 West 2nd Street, Benicia, on Sunday January 20, 2019 at 3PM.

The Benicia Chamber Players are highly experienced musicians playing with Bay Area ensembles, and the Church sanctuary provides a warm and intimate environment for music.

These programs are made possible by the generous support of Mozart, Einstein & Me, 620 1st Street, Benicia.

Admission is $20 ($5 for students).  Tickets are available in advance at Mozart, Einstein and Me and at the door.

The Benicia Chambers will also perform on March 24 and May 19, 2019 – programs to be announced.

Invitation to Celebrate the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

You are most heartily invited to take part in a service of remembrance and celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King on Monday, January 21, at 7 p.m. at Heritage Presbyterian Church, 1400 East 2nd St. (at Military East).

We’ll sing and remember, hear some of Dr. King’s words, and be enriched by story teller Linda Wright who will offer reflections as Coretta Scott King.

Please pass the word along.  (Click image to download the flyer).  Hope to see you there!

A suggestion for cleaning up Benicia election campaigns: public financing

Council to consider cleaning up election campaigning – Tuesday

From an E-Alert by Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson

Council to consider cleaning up election campaigning – Tuesday

December 14, 2018

[excerpted]… Many people consider the last election flawed because of the excessive money spent by the Political Action Committee of Valero and their affiliated entities’ efforts to buy two council seats.  What more can be done to keep elections from becoming a money-horse race and not about issues?  Below is one approach that could be considered.  Other cities have adopted a variety of programs that could be reviewed and considered.

Governor Brown Signs Major Step Towards Citizen-Funded Elections

SB 1107 signed by Governor Brown after passing legislature with bipartisan support

By Press Release – California Clean Money Campaign, September 29th, 2016

SACRAMENTO — Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill giving all Californian jurisdictions the right to give their citizens a bigger voice in democracy by changing the way election campaigns are financed. SB 1107 amends California’s antiquated ban on public financing of campaigns to allow local governments and the state to pass their own systems for citizen funding of election campaigns to magnify the voices of small donors and everyday voters.

SB 1107 was authored by Senator Ben Allen and coauthored by Senator Loni Hancock and Assemblymembers David Chiu and Lorena Gonzalez. Sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign and California Common Cause, SB 1107 allows public financing of campaigns in California elections if they’re paid for by dedicated campaign finance trust funds and are “available to all qualified, voluntarily participating candidates for the same office without regard to incumbency or political party preference”.

“Californians are demanding greater accountability from their elected officials, and rightfully so. Anything we can do to empower communities to reduce the influence of money in campaigns is a good thing”, said Senator Ben Allen, author of SB 1107.

SB 1107 passed the legislature with bipartisan support. Republican Senators Anthony Canella (R-Ceres) and Bob Huff (R-Brea) and Assemblymembers Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon), Ling Ling Chang (R-Brea), and David Hadley (R-Torrance) all deserve great credit for standing up for the voices of regular voters against special interests, as do all the Democrats who voted Yes. Senate President pro Tem Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), Senator Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Los Angeles) and SB 1107’s author Senator Allen (D-Redondo Beach) and Assembly floor manager Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) also deserve special commendation for their leadership in passing SBÂ 1107.

“The undue influence of big money special interests in politics isn’t a partisan issue,” said Assemblymember David Hadley (R-Torrance), one of the key votes in SB 1107 achieving its needed 2/3 majority in the Assembly. “I voted for SB 1107 to give cities and counties the local control they need to develop campaign finance systems that work for them, and look forward to working with the California Clean Money Campaign and others to explore carefully-crafted citizens-funded election systems to strengthen election accountability.”

More than 57,000 Californians signed petitions urging Governor Brown to pass SB 1107, and thousands more called Governor Brown and their legislators. A coalition of 40 state and national organizations weighed in for the bill, contributing an additional 50,000 petition signers from across the country urging California to lead. Besides SB 1107 sponsors California Clean Money Campaign and California Common Cause, organizations that actively worked to pass SB 1107 included: California Church Impact, California Labor Federation, California League of Conservation Voters, California School Employees Association, CALPIRG, Corporate Accountability International, Courage Campaign, CREDO, Daily Kos, Democracy for America, Every Voice, Friends of the Earth, GMO Free USA, League of Women Voters of California, Money Out Voters In, People Demanding Action, People For the American Way, Progressive Democrats of America, Sierra Club California, Represent.US,, UFCW, and Voices for Progress.

“Californians are crying out for reform of our broken campaign finance system, as shown by the tremendous outpouring of support for SB 1107,” said Trent Lange, President of the California Clean Money Campaign, co-sponsor of SB 1107. “We’re very grateful to Governor Brown and the bipartisan legislative leaders who made its passage possible so that Californians can explore citizen funded elections systems that give regular voters a stronger voice against big money special interests”.


The California Clean Money Campaign is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to lessening the unfair influence of Big Money on election campaigns. For further information, visit