The US Energy Information Agency (EIA) has further lowered its emissions projection for 2009 this month, as I said in May was likely. Lower coal consumption drives the reduction, based on the drop in industrial demand for fuel and the substitution by natural gas for coal for electricity generation.
Coal Use Projected to Fall ~5%
Building on the lower coal consumption trend of the first quarter, the EIA estimates coal demand to be ~5% lower in 2009. With oil and natural gas demand down ~3% and 2.2% (respectively), energy-related US carbon dioxide emissions are projected to fall ~3.5%.
Still room for lower emissions
I still see room for even these projections to be overestimates. Coal consumption could remain almost 10% below 2008 levels due to the huge supply of natural gas and the cutbacks in industrial production from the likes of GM and Chrysler. And oil demand projections are based on a significant increase from the first five months. I see more likelihood that oil demand remains low to leave 2009 consumption at 5% or more below last year.
Such consumption would send overall carbon emissions down more than 5% in 2009 and to less than 5% above 1990 levels. Since the Waxman-Markey ACESA sets targets based on 2005 emission levels, I will also express these emissions relative to 2005. By my estimates, 2009 emissions falling 5% would lower them to more than 8% below 2005 levels. It makes the Waxman-Markey goal of 17% below 2005 achievable by reducing emissions only .8% per year.
Bottom Line: US emissions are poised to fall dramatically in 2009, putting us in a good position to lower emissions significantly below 1990 levels in the 2010s. Based on the prospect of strong growth for wind, solar, and efficiency in the years ahead, emissions levels of 20-25% below 2005 in 2020 (~8-14% below 1990 levels) are achievable by lowering emissions at a reasonable rate of ~1.5% per year.
Let’s make it happen!