Carbon dioxide emissions from the United States’ energy sector fell last year, due mainly to a significant drop in the use of coal.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported Monday that energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common human-emitted greenhouse gas, were down 1.7 percent in 2016, compared with the previous year.
That came despite increases in the use of both oil and natural gas, and a resulting growth in carbon emissions from both fossil fuels.
The main reason for the emissions drop was an 8.6 percent decrease in pollution from coal, which resulted from a 1.3 percent decline in coal use, the EIA said.
“A significant reduction in coal use for electricity generation was offset by increased generation from natural gas and renewable sources,” the EIA explained.
“Renewables do not emit CO2, and a shift towards natural gas from coal lowers CO2 because natural gas has lower emissions per unit of energy than coal and because natural gas generators typically use less energy than coal plants to generate each kilowatt-hour of electricity.”
The weather was also a big factor in the emissions drop, according to the EIA. Warmer weather means buildings use less energy for heating, reducing the use of fuels that cause emissions.
Preliminary data show that the United States likely had an average 10 percent fewer days in 2016 when buildings had to use heat, when compared with the previous year. That would be the second-lowest number of such days since 1949, the EIA said.