Carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector increased about 2 percent in 2013 from a low point in 2012. The Energy Information Administration did the analysis. The agency attributes the increase to a small comeback by coal from a dramatic market share low in 2012.
“2012 was a very low point for CO2 emissions because a lot of the electric power sector had switched from coal to natural gas, which natural gas has low carbon emissions,” says EIA statistician Tyson Brown. “The price of natural gas has come up a bit since then and so there’s been a small, 2% increase in total emissions as coal has regained some market share in the electric power sector.”
He says Powder River Basin coal was likely the first coal to be reabsorbed by the energy market due to its low price.
But Brown says it’s important to focus on the long-term trend, which continues to show reductions in CO2 emissions.
“You’re seeing this sort of structural change into a lower carbon economy. But 2012 was the first real drop. A lot of people will focus on these year to year changes but it looks like a longer term trend to, you know, reduce emissions from the more historic level of 2005-2006,” Brown says.
Carbon emissions for 2013 are about 10 percent below 2005 levels.