Forecast: U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to fall 7.5-percent in 2020

U.S. energy agency forecasts dramatic cuts in fossil fuel consumption from COVID-19

I think it’s safe to say nobody wants to see greenhouse gasses reduced this way.

But one major COVID-19 impact so far is a dramatic reduction in fossil fuel use.

Global liquid fuels use
Global liquid fuels use
U.S. Energy Information Administration

The U.S. Energy Information Administration tracks energy use. The report released this week forecasts a historic reduction in fossil fuel use in 2020.

The agency predicts a 7.5-percent reduction in energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the U.S. this year. That follows a 2.7-percent drop last year.

U.S. Carbon Dioxide emissions
U.S. Carbon Dioxide emissions
U.S. Energy Information Administration

After decreasing by 2.7% in 2019, EIA forecasts that energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will decrease by 7.5% in 2020 as the result of the slowing economy and restrictions on business and travel activity related to COVID-19.

The agency also predicts a 9-percent decrease in gasoline consumption and a 10-percent decrease in jet fuel use this year.

In 2020, EIA forecasts that U.S. motor gasoline consumption will average 8.4 million b/d, a decrease of 9% compared with 2019, while jet fuel and distillate fuel oil consumption will fall by 10% and 5%, respectively over the same period.

Historic drop

The decrease in fossil fuel use this year could be the biggest drop since the Great Depression.

It may also be a boost to renewables, often the cheapest form of electricity in many areas. And coal may take another big hit this year according to this Associated Press piece.

Globally, “we’re seeing radical declines in transportation emissions and drops in other sectors of the economy,” said Stanford University’s Rob Jackson, who heads a group of independent scientists who monitor global carbon pollution. “We haven’t seen anything like this since the Great Depression.”

The energy agency projects Americans will burn 9% less gasoline and diesel and 10% less jet fuel, and that the electricity sector will generate 3% less power overall, among other declines. Solar and wind power — which get scant attention from Trump, other than his statements of loathing for wind turbines — will account for the majority of the country’s new electricity generation, the report says. As marketplace competition reshapes how Americans get their energy, power plants will use 11% more renewables and 20% less coal this year.

U.S. renewable energy trends
U.S. renewable energy trends
U.S. Energy Information Administration

There is little doubt the many widespread and unpleasant impacts from COVID-19 will be studied closely. One question I will be asking is; how much of the greenhouse gas reductions can we retain, while our economy gets back to something approaching normal?

And how many people that are working from home now can continue to do so in the future? That’s a big opportunity for reducing our commuter carbon footprints.

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