The covid-19 pandemic, as it affected energy consumption, prompted an 11% drop in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2020, compared to last year, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated.
With data from August and September, the agency estimated the decrease for this last month of 2020; according to EIA’s estimations, CO2 emissions are expected to drop 19% for coal, 13% for petroleum and 2% for natural gas.
EIA “calculates energy-related CO2 emissions by multiplying energy consumption, measured in British thermal units, by the carbon factor associated with each energy source. For this reason, changes in emissions reflect both changes in the overall amount of energy consumed and the mix of energy sources used,” the report explains.
The covid-19 pandemic had a tremendous impact on how people lived and moved; as governments across the globe mandated social distancing measures and lockdown periods to contain the spread, energy consumption dropped to a low record.
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Carbon emissions related to coal, the lowest drop
Last July, EIA informed that, in April the U.S had consumed 6,5 quadrillion British Thermal Units, the lowest record since September 1989. Compared to 2019’s same period, the drop was of 14%, the largest year-on-year decrease since the 70’s.
By August, EIA estimated a fell in emissions of 307 million metric tons in April 2020, the lowest record since EIA keeps emissions records, in 1973. This decrease was directly related with a sudden change in energy consumption because of the pandemic, and the traveling and moving restrictions it brought.
Petroleum accounts for about 45% of U.S total carbon dioxide emissions, most of which come from the transportation sector. In April 2020, according to the agency, emissions related with this sector fell to 102 million metric tons, the lowest record since February 1983.
As coal has been losing market value, on top of the strike from the pandemic, this year’s emissions related to coal burning could reach the lowest annual rate since 1973. In the electric sector coal use dropped 30% in 2020’s first half, because of this, the annual level is estimated in 4,597 million metric tons.