U.S. Emissions Rise 3.4% in 2018

According to a preliminary estimate, U. S. emissions of greenhouse gases rose by 3.4% in 2018. This is an even larger increase than the estimated global increase of 2.7% and it occurs after years of declining nationwide emissions. 

Rhodium Emissions Chart.jpg

The Rhodium Group, which prepared the estimate, cites fossil fuel use by industry as a major contributor to the increase in emissions. As noted in the New York Times, 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.

The Rhodium report also cites space heating as a source for rising emissions and notes that we had a warm winter in 2017 and a cold one in 2018. Heating degree days were 15% higher in 2018 and consumption of fossil heating fuels rose 10%.

The final emissions numbers will not likely be available for another year or so. Nor will a state-by-state breakdown—so we may have to wait to see if the nationwide increase in heating-related emissions endangers Vermont’s years-long streak of emissions reductions.

It is the position of Energize Vermont that weatherizing our homes is the easiest, fastest, least expensive way to lower our energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. The trouble is that there is no powerful lobby to push state policy makers to devise and pay for programs to tighten up our aging housing stock. The heavy lobbying guns are all aligned with the energy industry, which has convinced many Vermonters that we can reverse climate change with large-scale energy development that actually degrades our defenses against climate impacts.

 Other interesting data in the Rhodium report:


  • Consumption and emissions were up in 2018

  • Coal generation was down; 2018 may have been the biggest year yet for coal plant retirements

  • Increases in gas-fired generation filled the gap created by coal retirements rising and consumption

  • New gas-fired generation was four times larger than new wind and solar generation


  • Passenger miles driven were up, but passenger gasoline consumption was down

  • Consumption and emissions due to trucking and air travel were up

You can read the Rhodium Group report at https://rhg.com/research/preliminary-us-emissions-estimates-for-2018/.

The New York Times report is here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/08/climate/greenhouse-gas-emissions-increase.html.


Mark WhitworthComment