Total greenhouse gas emissions generated in the United States increased by 2 percent from 2012 to 2013, but emission levels in 2013 were 9 percent below 2005 levels, according to a new annual report by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The EPA’s 20th Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks tracks total annual US emissions and removals by source, economic sector and greenhouse gas going back to 1990. The agency uses national energy data, information on national agricultural activities and other national statistics to provide a comprehensive accounting of total greenhouse gas emissions for all man-made sources in the United States.
The EPA also collects greenhouse gas emissions data from individual facilities and suppliers of certain fossil fuels and industrial gases through the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.
In 2013, US greenhouse gas emissions totaled 6,673 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, the report says. The largest source of emissions came from power plants, which accounted for 31 percent of total greenhouse gas pollution. The transportation sector was the second biggest carbon polluter, at 27 percent. Industry and manufacturing were the third largest source, at 21 percent.
The increase in total national GHG emissions between 2012 and 2013 was due to increased energy consumption across all sectors in the US economy and greater use of coal for electricity generation, the report says.
Emissions from large industrial facilities were 20 million metric tons higher in 2013 than the prior year, or 0.6 percent, driven largely by an increase in coal use for power generation..
However, the overall trend shows that the market for thermal coal is in structural decline in the US, according to a recent report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative. The report finds that, in the last few years, US coal markets have been pounded by a combination of cheaper renewables, energy efficiency measures, increasing construction costs and a rash of legal challenges, as well as the rise of shale gas. In the past five years the US coal industry lost 76 percent of its value, and at least 264 mines were closed between 2011 and 2013. The world’s largest private coal company, Peabody Energy, lost 80 percent of its share price.