U.S. carbon output slower than thought by 2030: EIA

NEW YORK Wed Dec 17, 2008 6:20pm EST

A U.S. flag flutters in front of cooling towers at the Limerick Generating Station in Pottstown, Pennsylvania May 24, 2006. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

A U.S. flag flutters in front of cooling towers at the Limerick Generating Station in Pottstown, Pennsylvania May 24, 2006.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. energy-related emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by 2030 will be 9.4 percent less than forecast last year as renewable energy develops and prices cut fossil fuel demand, the top U.S. energy forecasting agency said on Wednesday.

Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions will hit 6.410 billion tonnes in 2030, the Energy Information Administration said in its annual long-term forecast. In last year's forecast, the EIA, the independent statistics arm of the Department of Energy, had forecast the emissions to hit 6.851 billion tonnes by 2030.

"Efficiency policies and higher energy prices ... slow the rise in U.S. energy use," the EIA said. "When combined with the increased use of renewables and a reduction in the projected additions of new coal-fired conventional power plants, this slows the growth in energy-related (greenhouse gas) emissions."

Total consumption of renewable fuels including hydropower, solar and wind power, biofuels, and wood burning will grow 3.3 percent per year through 2030, according to the report. Some of the growth will be spurred by the U.S. 2007 biofuels mandate, and state mandates for minimum levels of renewable electricity generation, the EIA said.

New power generation fired by coal, which emits more carbon dioxide than any other fuel, will hit 46 gigawatts, not the 104 gigawatts forecast last year, the report said.

"It's a tremendous sea change in the forecast for coal plant construction from last year," said Alan Nogee, the clean energy director for the Union of Concerned Scientists. He said Wednesday's forecast showed EIA expectations of about 100 fewer average-sized coal plants by 2030 than last year's forecast.

This year alone utilities anticipating future federal greenhouse gas emissions have canceled plans for about 13 coal-fired power plants.

President-elect Barack Obama wants to cut total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 in order to avoid catastrophic effects of climate change including droughts, floods and more powerful storms. Last year those emissions were about 16.7 percent above 1990 levels.

Carbon dioxide emissions from energy sources represented about 81 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas output in 2007. Other sources of gases blamed for warming the planet include methane, which is given off at farms and waste dumps.

Nogee said more renewable energy will need to be developed as more coal plants will be planned in coming years.

Coal's share of U.S. power generation will fall from 49 percent in 2007 to 45 percent by 2025 and then rebound to 47 percent by 2030, the EIA said.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Christian Wiessner)

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