On October 6, 2021, the US EPA released greenhouse gas (GHG) data for 2020, showing decreasing GHG emissions, largely due to power plants switching fuel from coal to natural gas. While GHG emissions from oil and gas have increased in recent years, reductions from power plants offset those increases by many times.
Power Plant GHG Emissions Decreased by One Third since 2011
EPA’s news release identified power plants as the largest stationary source; their GHG emissions “declined by 10% from 2019 to 2020, and nearly 33% since 2011.” While the COVID-19 pandemic may be responsible for some of the short-term decline, the long-term decline is due to “shifts in power-sector fuel stock from coal to natural gas.”
Increase in Oil and Gas GHG Emissions
GHG emissions from oil and gas declined by 10% from 2019 to 2020 (during COVID-19) but increased by 11.6% from 2016 to 2020. However, in absolute terms, power plants emit nearly five times the GHG as petroleum and natural gas systems. Average annual GHG emission decreases from power plants were approximately nine times the annual increases from oil and gas. These numbers indicate increased oil and gas production, while increasing GHG emissions from that sector, played a key role in decreasing net GHG emissions by a substantially larger amount.
EPA also reported GHG emissions from large sources in the industrial and waste sectors decreased by 26% since 2011.
To see the news release, which has links to the data https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-releases-2020-data-collected-under-greenhouse-gas-reporting-program