Substantial Increase in Emissions, Despite Record Coal Retirement

Erin Zipman, Staff Writer

The United States shut down about 15 gigawatts of coal power energy in 2018 (twice that of 2017’s coal power plant retirements), according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. This amount is significant – about 6% of our current coal power capacity of 246 gigawatts. The Bloomberg New Energy Finance company reports that since 2010, U.S. coal power capacity has fallen by a third. This seems like promising news, but the international independent research provider Rhodium Group has found that our emissions rocketed up 3.4% this year, the second largest increase in twenty years. Why?

Our greenhouse gas emissions are in no way isolated to just one sector. Renewable energy is not yet mainstream enough to replace the coal plants that shut down, so natural gas picked up most of the energy needs. Natural gas should be but a stepping stone to renewable energy; while it does have less of an environmental impact than coal, it produces methane, which is wildly more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Additionally, even as we crawl into the safe arms of renewable energy, other growing sectors of our economy still release rampant amounts of pollution from steel production. The World Steel Organization states that 1.8 tonnes of CO2 are emitted for every tonne of steel produced.

Other industries rely on and produce significant and detrimental amounts of greenhouse gases, from agriculture, livestock, transportation…

Rollbacks on environmental regulations are also setting us on track for catastrophic levels of global warming. That is why it is necessary that we not only evaluate our personal carbon footprint, but put pressure on companies to reduce their ecological impact, and to urge politicians to make climate action a priority, for the safety and well-being of everyone on earth.