Category Archives: Carbon dioxide

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.

78 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump.  This is the full list of environmental policies the Trump administration has targeted, often in an effort to ease burdens on the fossil fuel industry. Oct. 5, 2017
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.

Climate Change Is Complex. We’ve Got Answers to Your Questions. We know. Global warming is daunting. So here’s a place to start: 17 often-asked questions with some straightforward answers. Sept. 19, 2017

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

    DESMOGBLOG: “There is no doubt”: Exxon Knew CO2 Pollution Was A Global Threat By Late 1970s

    Repost from DeSmogBlog

    “There is no doubt”: Exxon Knew CO2 Pollution Was A Global Threat By Late 1970s

    By Brendan DeMelle and Kevin Grandia, April 26, 2016 09:19
    Throughout Exxon’s global operations, the company knew that CO2 was a harmful pollutant in the atmosphere years earlier than previously reported.

    DeSmog has uncovered Exxon corporate documents from the late 1970s stating unequivocally “there is no doubt” that CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels was a growing “problem” well understood within the company.

    It is assumed that the major contributors of CO2 are the burning of fossil fuels… There is no doubt that increases in fossil fuel usage and decreases of forest cover are aggravating the potential problem of increased CO2 in the atmosphere. Technology exists to remove CO2 from stack gases but removal of only 50% of the CO2 would double the cost of power generation.” [emphasis added]

    Those lines appeared in a 1980 report, “Review of Environmental Protection Activities for 1978-1979,” produced by Imperial Oil, Exxon’s Canadian subsidiary.

    #exxonknew - it is assumed

    #exxonknew | there is no doubt
    [click on any of the screenshots in this story to see a PDF of the full document]

    A distribution list included with the report indicates that it was disseminated to managers across Exxon’s international corporate offices, including in Europe.

    #exxonknew | distirbution list
    [click here to download the full PDF version of “Review of Environmental Protection Activities for 1978-1979”]

    The next report in the series, “Review of Environmental Protection Activities for 1980-81,” noted in an appendix covering “Key Environmental Affairs Issues and Concerns” that: CO2 / GREENHOUSE EFFECT RECEIVING INCREASED MEDIA ATTENTION.


    [click here to download the full PDF version of “Review of Environmental Protection Activities for 1980-1981”]

    InsideClimate News unveiled much new information in its Exxon: The Road Not Taken series clearly demonstrating the depth of climate science knowledge among Exxon’s U.S. operations. Additional revelations about the company’s early climate research were published by the Los Angeles Times in collaboration with the Columbia School of Journalism.

    A 1980 Exxon report explained the company’s plans:

    CO2 Greenhouse Effect:  Exxon-supported work is already underway to help define the seriousness of this problem. Such information is needed to assess the implications for future fossil fuel use. Government funding will be sought to expand the use of Exxon tankers in determining the capacity of the ocean to store CO2.”

    Now DeSmog’s research confirms that the knowledge of the carbon dioxide pollution threat was indeed global across Exxon’s worldwide operations, earlier than previously known, and considered a major challenge for the company’s future operations. The new documents revealed today were found by DeSmog researchers in an Imperial Oil (TSE:IMOarchival collection housed at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta. We first learned of the existence of the collection in one of the articles published in the Los Angeles Times in collaboration with the Columbia School of Journalism.

    “Since Pollution Means Disaster…”

    A document discovered by DeSmog reveals that Exxon was aware as early as the late 1960s that global emissions of CO2 from combustion was a chief pollution concern affecting global ecology.

    Those details were found in a 1970 report, “Pollution Is Everybody’s Business,” authored by H.R. Holland, a Chemical Engineer responsible for environmental protection in Imperial Oil’s engineering division. [click to download PDF of “Pollution is Everybody’s Business]

    Holland wrote:

    Since pollution means disaster to the affected species, the only satisfactory course of action is to prevent it – to maintain the addition of foreign matter at such levels that it can be diluted, assimilated or destroyed by natural processes – to protect man’s environment from man.”

    Included in Holland’s report is a table of the “Estimated Global Emissions of Some Air Pollutants.” One of those “air pollutants” on the table is carbon dioxide with the listed sources as “oxidation of plant and animal matter” and “combustion.”

    #ExxonKnew - Imperial Oil
    The double asterisks beside CO2 in Holland’s list of pollutants refer to a citation for a 1969 scientific study, “Carbon Dioxide Affects Global Ecology,” in which the author explains the connections between the burning of fossil fuels, the rise in CO2 in the atmosphere and the potential effects this will have on future weather patterns and global temperatures.

    Holland emphasized the need to control all forms of pollution through regulatory action, noting that “a problem of such size, complexity and importance cannot be dealt with on a voluntary basis.” Yet the fossil fuel industry has long argued that its voluntary programs are sufficient, and that regulations are unneeded.

    Exxon Understood Climate Science, Yet Funded Decades of Climate Science Denial

    Despite Exxon’s advanced scientific understanding of the role of CO2 pollution from fossil fuel burning causing atmospheric disruption, the company shelved its internal concerns and launched a sophisticated, global campaign to sow doubt and create public distrust of climate science. This included extensive lobbying and advertising activities, publishing weekly op-eds in The New York Times for years, and other tactics.

    Exxon and Mobil were both founding members of the Global Climate Coalition, an industry front group created in 1989 to sow doubt — despite the GCC‘s internal understanding of the certainty.

    While the GCC distributed a “backgrounder” to politicians and media in the early 1990s claiming “The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood,” a 1995 GCC internal memo drafted by Mobil Oil(which merged with Exxon in 1998) stated that: “The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied.”

    And the most obvious evidence of Exxon’s pervasive efforts to attack science and pollution control regulations lies in the more than $30 million traced by Greenpeace researchers to several dozen think tanks and front groups working to confuse the public about the need to curb CO2 pollution.

    FROM THE DESMOG RESEARCH DATABASE: ExxonMobil’s Funding of Climate Science Denial

    As the science grew stronger, Exxon’s embrace of its global, multi-million dollar denial campaign grew more intense.

    Imperial Oil’s Public Denial Grew Stronger In 1990s Despite Its Own Prior Scientific Certainty

    Imperial Oil, Exxon’s Canadian subsidiary, as these documents demonstrate, had a clear understanding of the environmental and climate consequences of CO2 pollution from fossil fuel combution, yet its public denial of these links grew stronger throughout the 1990s.

    Imperial Oil chairman and CEO Robert Peterson wrote in “A Cleaner Canada” in 1998: “Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant but an essential ingredient of life on this planet.”

    (DeSmog will take a deeper look at Imperial Oil’s conflicting CO2 positioning in public vs. its internal communications in future coverage.)

    Reached for comment, Imperial Oil did not respond by press time. ExxonMobil media relations manager Alan Jeffers provided the following response:

    “Your conclusions are inaccurate but not surprising since you work with extreme environmental activists who are paying for fake journalism to misrepresent ExxonMobil’s nearly 40-year history of climate research. To suggest that we had reached definitive conclusions, decades before the world’s experts and while climate science was in an early stage of development, is not credible.”

    Legal Implications of Fossil Fuel Industry’s Knowledge of CO2 Pollution and Climate Impacts

    Calls are growing louder to hold Exxon and other fossil fuel interests accountable for funding climate denial campaigns given their advanced understanding of climate science and the implications of CO2 pollution for the atmosphere going back many decades.

    In multiple U.S. states and territories — including New York, California, Massachusetts and the Virgin Islands — state Attorneys General are investigating Exxon’s depth of knowledge regarding the climate impacts of burning fossil fuels, and whether the company broke the law by fueling anti-science campaigns through corporate contributions to organizations and individuals working to sow doubt and confusion about global warming. [DeSmog coverage: State Investigations Into What Exxon Knew Double, and Exxon Gets Defensive]

    Climate activists and even presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are urging the Department of Justice and other relevant government agencies to investigate the fossil fuel industry’s deliberate efforts to delay policy action to address the climate threat.

    Democratic U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Ed Markey (MA) and Brian Schatz (HIintroduced an amendment to the energy bill expressing Congress’s disapproval of the use of industry-funded think tanks and misinformation tactics aimed at sowing doubt about climate change science. But it remains to be seen what action Congress might take to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for delaying policy solutions and confusing the public on this critical issue.

    Imagine where the world would be had Exxon continued to pursue and embrace its advanced scientific understanding of climate change decades ago, rather than pivoting antagonistically against the science by funding decades of denial?

      Obama vetoes GOP push to kill climate rules

      Repost from The Hill

      Obama vetoes GOP push to kill climate rules

      By Timothy Cama – 12/19/15 08:35 AM EST 
      Getty Images

      President Obama has vetoed a pair of measures by congressional Republicans that would have overturned the main pillars of his landmark climate change rules for power plants.

      The decision was widely expected, and Obama and his staff had repeatedly threatened the action as a way to protect a top priority and major part of his legacy.

      The White House announced early Saturday morning, as Obama was flying to Hawaii for Christmas vacation, that he is formally not taking action on the congressional measures, which counts as a “pocket veto” under the law. “Climate change poses a profound threat to our future and future generations,” the president said in a statement about Republicans’ attempt to kill the carbon dioxide limits for existing power plants.

      “The Clean Power Plan is a tremendously important step in the fight against global climate change,” Obama wrote, adding that “because the resolution would overturn the Clean Power Plan, which is critical to protecting against climate change and ensuring the health and well-being of our nation, I cannot support it.”

      That rule from the Environmental Protection Agency mandates a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon output by 2030.

      He had a similar argument in support of his regulation setting carbon limits for newly-built fossil fuel power plants, saying the legislation against it “would delay our transition to cleaner electricity generating technologies by enabling continued build-out of outdated, high-polluting infrastructure.”

      Congress passed the resolutions in November and December under the Congressional Review Act, a little-used law that gives lawmakers a streamlined way to quickly challenge regulations from the executive branch.

      Obama had made clear his intent to veto the measures early on, so the passage by both GOP-led chambers of Congress was only symbolic.

      The votes came before and during the United Nations’ major climate change conference in Paris, as an attempt to undermine Obama’s negotiating position toward an international climate pact.

      Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee and a vocal climate change doubter, said it’s important to send a message about congressional disapproval, even with Obama’s veto.

      “While I fully expect these CRA resolutions to be vetoed, without the backing of the American people and the Congress, there will be no possibility of legislative resurrection once the courts render the final judgments on the president’s carbon mandates,” he said on the Senate floor shortly before the Senate’s action on the resolutions.

      Twenty-seven states and various energy and business interests are suing the Obama administration to stop the existing plant rule, saying it violates the Clean Air Act and states’ constitutional rights.

      They are seeking an immediate halt to the rule while it is litigated, something the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit could decide on later this month.

      All Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential election want to overturn the rules.

      In addition to the veto, Obama is formally sending the resolutions back to the Senate to make clear his intent to disapprove of them.

      Obama has now vetoed seven pieces of legislation, including five this year, the first year of his presidency with the GOP controlling both chambers of Congress.