Home » Climate Change » Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Page 2)

Category Archives: Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Video of Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere

The brilliant folks at NASA have created a video showing carbon dioxide as it travels through our atmosphere for a year. Click on the embedded video to view it. The video models not quite a full near, starting in mid-November, 2014.

 

.

The data used to create the video comes from NASA’s OCO-2, a satellite that monitors carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is not the first video NASA has created to show CO2 in the atmosphere, but it is the first one in 3-D.

Source:

NASA. 2016. Following Carbon Dioxide Through the Year. Video posted on YouTube. Downloaded 12/18/2016 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syU1rRCp7E8.

Opinion: We Could Do It, If Only We Wanted

In the preceding posts, I have done some “back-of-the-envelope” calculations of how much land would be required to generate enough electricity using wind and solar energy to cover total energy consumption in the USA or in Missouri. I found that to cover total United States energy consumption would require wind farms on land equal to the size of South Carolina, or solar farms on land equal to almost the size of Texas. Alternatively, it you put solar panels on rooftops, it would require roughly six time as much roof space as exists in the entire country. To cover Missouri’s energy consumption would require wind farms on land equal to the size of Iron County, or solar farms on land equal to about 7% of the state.

I didn’t consider the need for storage, redundancy, peak demand, additional capacity to cover times when the wind wasn’t blowing or the sun wasn’t shining, or losses during delivery of the electricity to customers. All of this means that my estimates are bare minimums, and the actual land required would be larger. How much more? I don’t know.

The International Panel on Climate Change has estimated that we need to reduce GHG emissions 41-72% by 2050 in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change. If the United States were to attempt to meet that goal entirely through converting to renewable energy, then only 41-72% of the land I estimated would be required, plus the extra land required for the reasons cited above. Perhaps the end result would be in the rough vicinity of my estimates.

But the United States doesn’t have to make renewable energy the only possible way of reaching the goal. Other strategies might (and probably should) include reducing how much energy we consume and increasing the efficiency of the energy we do use. These are obvious strategies, they are far and away the most cost-effective ways of reducing GHG emissions, and there are no technological hurdles stopping us from getting started. The only thing stopping us is our refusal to do it. Like smokers with lung cancer who still smoke, we continue to emit GHGs despite their harmful effects.

Two other strategies are also possible, though significantly more controversial: nuclear power and population reduction. Nuclear power is one of the most efficient, most reliable forms of generating electricity that has been invented. It has virtually no GHG emissions. The problem is that, in its brief history, every 20-30 years something somewhere has gone spectacularly wrong, and the consequences have been devastating. Entire regions have been made uninhabitable, the costs have been in the hundreds of billions of dollars, and remediation has been virtually impossible. The Ukraine is still working to seal-off the Chernobyl Generating Station, and that accident was 30 years ago. Nuclear power seems to me something we can’t live without, but something we can’t live with, either.

The other strategy is population reduction. I personally believe that in 100 years human population will be significantly less than it is today. Whether that will come voluntarily or involuntarily, I don’t know. It is seems to be common wisdom these days that Malthus and Paul Ehrlich were completely wrong, and that Malthusian sorts of analyses are all off base. I don’t think so. Malthus and Ehrlich were spectacularly wrong in the specifics of their predictions; the dynamics of population and the world’s capacity to support life were influenced by factors they did not understand. The fundamental logic behind their analyses, however, is that you cannot infinitely increase population in a world with finite limits. Duh! That still seems cogent to me. People use resources and generate waste and pollution. It all puts the earth under stress, and the results show up in hundreds of ways that are plain to see if one only reads the newspapers. We have shown remarkable ingenuity in stringing this along for much longer than Malthus and Ehrlich thought we could. How long we can continue to do so, I don’t know. There are numerous important ecological systems that appear to be nearing tipping points, and unless we take the stress off them, sooner or later they are likely to start collapsing. Or so I believe.

Our population could be reduced through wars, famines, or plagues. These are the historical ways in which human population has been reduced, and these are the methods that nature uses to reduce population among other animals. These would all be terrible disasters, and any sane person would hate to see such a thing happen to the human race.

Planned population reduction has never been tried for an extended period on a global, or even a nation-wide basis. It comes with serious economic and demographic problems that people the world over have been unwilling to face. But they are better than population reduction through war, famine, or plague. I personally believe that if we don’t do this, then nature will do it to us. I don’t look forward to that time, either for myself, or for my child, or for my child’s children.

Climate change is just one of the stresses. Others could be named, such as changes to the ocean, desertification, water scarcity, or the mass extinction of species that is currently occurring. But the last few posts have been on renewable energy, so I’ll end with this:

Reducing GHG emissions through the use of renewable energy would be a big, expensive task. We would have to cover large areas of the country, and we would have to solve a number of thorny technical problems. But in terms of the land available, it is possible. We could do it, especially if we also used the other strategies like reducing consumption and increasing efficiency.

Addendum: This post was written in early August. On October 3, the New York Times published an article saying that  this year the carbon dioxide concentration of the atmosphere at Mauna Loa Observatory was measured at greater than 400 ppm., and is likely to remain above 400 ppm. for the immediate future. While 400 ppm. is not a catastrophic tipping point, it is a milestone. Those who had hoped to limit the effects of climate change had hoped to keep the carbon dioxide level below 400 ppm., or at least delay (by decades) the day it was exceeded. Well, we have blown by the milestone faster than almost anybody anticipated. It is not a tipping point, but it is a sign that the world has yet to take climate change seriously, and has yet to make the changes needed to head off its worst effects.

Source:

Chernobyl Disaster. Wikipedia. Viewed online 8/4/16 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster#Economic_and_political_consequences.

Diamond, Jared. 2005. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking.

Ehrich, Paul. 1968. The Population Bomb. Sierra Club/Ballantine Books.

IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Edenhofer, O., R. Pichs-Madruga, Y. Sokona, E. Farahani, S. Kadner, K. Seyboth, A. Adler, I. Baum, S. Brunner, P. Eickemeier, B. Kriemann, J. Savolainen, S. Schlömer, C. von Stechow, T. Zwickel and J.C. Minx (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA. Table SPM.1.

Malthus, Thomas. 1789. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Public domain, viewed 8/4/16 at the website of the Electronic Scholarly Publishing Project, http://www.esp.org/books/malthus/population/malthus.pdf.

A Wind Farm the Size of Iron County


To satisfy energy demand in Missouri would require a wind farm the size of Iron County, or a solar photovoltaic farm 7% the size of the state, or a combination of both.


In the past 3 posts I have constructed “back-of-the-envelope” estimates of how much land would be required in order to meet the USA’s energy needs from wind power and solar photovoltaic power. In this post I bring it back to Missouri: how big a wind farm, how big a solar photovoltaic farm, would you need to meet Missouri’s energy consumption?

I won’t go through all the calculations like I did in the previous posts. I’ll simply say that total energy consumption in Missouri was 557,946,666 MWh in 2014.

http://www.eia.gov/state/seds/data.cfm?incfile=/state/seds/sep_sum/html/rank_use.html&sid=US.

To satisfy this demand using wind farms would occupy 556 square miles. That’s a square less than 24 miles on each side. It is roughly the size of Iron County or St. Charles County. The largest county in Missouri, Texas County, is twice as large.

To satisfy the demand using solar photovoltaics would require solar farms occupying 4,819 square miles. That is a square 69 miles on each side. It is larger than any Missouri county, but only about 7% of the state.

As in previous posts, I must here caution that the examples I drew upon to construct my analyses, the Alta Wind Farm and the Topaz Solar Farm, are located in locations with strong wind and solar resources. Wind and solar farms elsewhere would be trying to reap lesser resources, and thus, would require more land to generate the same amount of power. Thus, my estimates represent the lower limit of the land that would be required. Still, they give some estimate of the size of the task involved.

.

.

So what does all this rumination mean? First, let me reiterate that these are very rough “back-of-the-envelope” estimates. But they may be useful in demonstrating the size of the task required to convert to renewable energy.

Second, given current technology, it isn’t possible to cover the nation’s entire energy consumption using either wind power or solar photovoltaics. These technologies generate electricity, and a significant portion of the nations energy requires petroleum and natural gas. There are also engineering issues regarding the stability of the electrical grid that need to be solved

Third, it isn’t necessary to cover the nation’s entire energy consumption to have a significant effect. If we could derive 30%, 40%, 50% of the nations energy from renewables, it would make a significant impact on GHG emissions.

Fourth, converting to renewable energy would reduce air pollution, acid rain, and mercury poisoning, because all three come primarily from burning fossil fuel to create energy.

Fifth, it would also reduce our balance of payments deficit by reducing the amount of petroleum we have to buy from other nations. And it would enhance our energy security by making us less dependent on on foreign nations for our energy.

And sixth, it would take the money we currently send overseas to purchase oil and reinvest it here, in this country, possibly stimulating our own economy.

.

.

My analysis suggests, that from a land coverage viewpoint, converting to renewable energy would require a lot of land, but not a prohibitive amount. Very large wind farms and solar farms have already been installed and are generating electricity. We would have to continue installing them, but the land exists.

We would have to have a national consensus that this is an appropriate way to use our land, however. And then the technological and economic issues would have to be resolved. Many of them already have been, but some remain, and those would be the issues that would make or break the project.

Too Little Real Estate on Rooftops?


To generate enough energy with rooftop solar panels to cover total energy consumption in the USA would require more than 6 times as much rooftop space as exists in the whole country.


In the previous two posts I have constructed “back-of-the-envelop” estimates of how much land you would have to use to satisfy the USA’s energy consumption with wind and solar power. I discovered that to do it with wind power would require at minimum wind farms occupying land the size of South Carolina. To do it with solar would require at minimum a solar farm at almost as big as the state of Texas.

What if solar was distributed around the country, on every building in the country? Obviously, not every building is suitable for solar power – they are shaded by trees or other buildings, they are oriented the wrong direction, or the slope of their roofs isn’t good for solar panels. Still, this is an interesting exercise to demonstrate the size of the requirement.

There are an estimated 113 million residential structures in the USA, totaling an estimated 180 billion square feet. There are an estimated 4.7 million commercial buildings totaling 68.5 billion square feet. Combined, they total 248.5 billion sq. ft.

https://www.aps.org/energyefficiencyreport/report/energy-bldgs.pdf.

The average new residence in the USA has 1.6 stories, and I will use that as my estimate for all housing. Thus, the average size of the roofs would be 180 billion / 1.6 = 112.5 billion = 112,500,000,000 sq.ft. This is probably an overestimate, because it does not account for multifamily buildings, but it will have to do.

https://www.census.gov/construction/chars/highlights.html.

I could find no data regarding the average number of stories for commercial buildings. However, there is data that buildings over 50,000 sq. ft. constitute half of the entire square footage, even though they represent only about 6% of all buildings. Obviously, some very large skyscrapers are going to account for a lot of internal square footage, but have comparatively small roofs. It’s just a guestimate, but I’m going to say that the square footage of commercial building roofs is only 1/4 that of their total square footage.

68.5 billion / 4 = 17.1 billion sq. ft. = 17,100,000,000 sq. ft.

https://www.eia.gov/consumption/commercial/reports/2012/buildstock/.

Thus, I estimate the total amount of roof space in the United States to be 112,500,000,000 + 17,125,000,000 = 129,625,000,000 sq.ft.

In 2014, total energy consumption in the United States was 98,385.2 trillion Btu. = 28,833,750,564 MWh.

http://www.eia.gov/state/seds/data.cfm?incfile=/state/seds/sep_sum/html/rank_use.html&sid=US.

The Desert Southwest has the strongest solar resource in the country, while northerly latitudes with lots of cloudy days have the weakest. The Wikipedia article on solar efficiency says that in Colorado, one could expect a solar panel to generate 440 kWh/sq.m./year, while in Michigan, one could expect 280 kWh/sq.m./year.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cell_efficiency.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory provides a map of the solar resource across the country in kWh/sq.meter/day, but I could find no resource that gave a nationwide average. Since I am assuming solar panels installed on every building across the country, I must use a national average.

http://www.nrel.gov/gis/images/map_pv_national_lo-res.jpg.

“Eyeballing” the map, it is clear that Colorado does not represent the strongest solar resource in the country. On the other hand, the area that does have the strongest solar resource is relatively sparsely settled, meaning there are fewer buildings there than in, say, the Northeast. I will assume that these factors balance out, and that one may estimate the annual yield from solar panels by averaging the figures from Colorado and Michigan.

Thus, I estimate the average annual yield from a solar installations to be (440 + 280) / 2 = 360 kWh per square meter per year = 33.4 kWh per square foot per year.

Therefore, the total potential energy production that could be achieved by completely covering every roof in the country with solar panels would be 129,625,000,000 * 33.4 = 4,335,324,557,000 kWh, = 4,335,000,000 MWh.

The fraction of national consumption that could be met would be 28,833,750,564 / 4,335,324,557 = 15%. Put another way, we would need more than six times as much roof space as exists in the USA to meet our energy consumption using rooftop solar photovoltaic.

Some thoughts on where Missouri fits in all this and what it all means in the next post.

Cover Texas With Solar Panels?


To generate enough electricity with solar photovoltaics to cover total energy consumption in the USA, you would need land almost equal to the size of Texas.


My brother asked me how much land you would have to cover to satisfy the demand for energy in the USA using renewables. In the previous post I constructed a “back-of-the-envelope” estimate for wind power, finding that it would require a wind farms covering land roughly equal to the size of South Carolina. In this post, I construct a similar analysis for solar power.

The largest U.S. solar farm listed in Wikipedia is Solar Star, but it has not been operational long enough to have good generating statistics posted. I will use the Topaz Solar Farm, which Wikipedia lists as the second largest in the USA.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_photovoltaic_power_stations#World.27s_largest_photovoltaic_power_stations.

Topaz is located in San Luis Obispo County, in California’s Central Valley. It is sited on 9.5 square miles, and its average annual generation is 1,100,000 MWh.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topaz_Solar_Farm.

The amount of power generated per square mile is 1,100,000 / 9.5 = 115,789 MWh per square mile per year.

In 2014, total energy consumption in the United States was 98,385.2 trillion Btu. = 28,833,750,564 MWh.

http://www.eia.gov/state/seds/data.cfm?incfile=/state/seds/sep_sum/html/rank_use.html&sid=US.

To provide that much power would require 28,833,750,564 / 115,789 = 249,019 square miles.

How to put that in context? It is a square 499 miles on each side. It is just under the size of the state of Texas, it would occupy more than 90% of the state.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas.

Of course, Topaz is located in California’s Central Valley, which has a strong solar resource. The Desert Southwest has an even stronger one, however, and there is a great deal of land there. Still, some of the solar farms would be likely to be spread around the country. That would put some of them in areas with weaker solar resources. In addition, this analysis does not consider the need for excess capacity, redundancy, and storage, all of which would be required to cover times when the sun doesn’t shine, thus requiring even more land. Still, my estimate gives some idea of the size of the task.

Before you boggle at the size of the task, think of our current power generating infrastructure and how long it took us to create it. In 2014 there were an estimated 7,644 power plants in the USA.

https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=65&t=2.

The first generating stations supplying power to the public were built in 1882, meaning that it took us 132 years to get to where we are now.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_station.

We have a big job in front of us, but if we give it our best effort, could we, would we, cover that much land with solar panels? I don’t know. But what if you relied on distributed solar photovoltaic power? What if you put solar panels on the roofs of buildings all across America? I will look at that next.

A Wind Farm the Size of South Carolina?


To satisfy demand for energy in the United States with wind power would require a wind farm the size of South Carolina.


My brother asked whether I had any idea how much ground would have to be covered with wind or solar farms to cover the energy consumption of the USA.

In reply, I produced the following analysis. This is obviously “back of the envelope” analysis, so be cautious how far you run with it. Still, I think it is interesting. Because some of the facts seem a bit counterintuitive, after each fact I’ve cited the source from which I got it. As you read, be sure to notice that wind power produces only electricity, yet I am comparing it to total energy consumption, which includes petroleum used in transportation.

According to Wikipedia, as of 2013 the largest wind farm in the world was the Alta Wind Energy Center, located on the eastern side of the Tehachapi Pass in the Mojave Desert. It is sited on 3,200 acres, has a rated capacity of 1,547 MW, and has a capacity factor of 30%.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alta_Wind_Energy_Center.

A word here is needed to explain capacity factor. The rated capacity of a wind farm is its theoretical maximum generating power. However, because the wind doesn’t always blow, and turbines sometimes need maintenance, wind farms never generate their rated capacity. The average percentage of rated capacity that they actually generate is called their capacity factor. The Wikipedia article cites Alta’s capacity factor as 30%. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory says that the average capacity factor of onshore wind farms is 30-40%, with the best guess at about 37%. Capacity factor has been increasing due to improvements in turbine technology. I will use NREL’s figure.

http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/tech_cap_factor.html.

Thus, the actual capacity of Alta would be 1,547MW * 37% = 572 MW.

There are 8,760 hours in a year. Thus, the yearly production at Alta would be 572MW * 8,760 hours = 5,010,720 MWh.

Thus, production per acre would be 5,010,720 / 3,200 = 1,567 MWh per year per acre.

In 2014, total energy consumption in the United States was 98,385.2 trillion Btu. = 28,833,750,564 MWh.

http://www.eia.gov/state/seds/data.cfm?incfile=/state/seds/sep_sum/html/rank_use.html&sid=US.

Thus, the number of acres required to meet that consumption would be 28,833,750,564 / 1,567 = 18,401,574 acres = 28,752 square miles.

How to put that in context? It is a square 170 miles on each side, or approximately 40% the size of Missouri, or roughly equal to the size of West Virginia or South Carolina. You wouldn’t want to build one contiguous wind farm, but even if you did, it would fit in West Texas, the deserts of California, or the eastern plains of Montana with ease.

Now, Alta is located in the Tehachapi Pass, which has the strongest wind resource in the nation. Wind farms located elsewhere would be located in weaker wind resources. Further, because the wind does not always blow in a given location, you would have to build excess capacity elsewhere and power storage to cover those occasions, meaning that the actual land required would be somewhat larger than my estimate. Still, it is a starting point, and it gives some sense of the size of the task involved.

Before you boggle at the size of the task, think of our current power generating infrastructure and how long it took us to create it. In 2014 there were an estimated 7,644 power plants in the USA.

https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=65&t=2.

The first generating stations supplying power to the public were built in 1882, meaning that it took us 132 years to get to where we are now.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_station.

We have a big job in front of us, but if we give it our best effort, what might we be able to accomplish?

In the next post, I will construct a similar analysis for solar photovoltaic.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Fossil Fuel – 2016

Figure 1. Source: U.S. Energy Information Agency.

Figure 1. Source: U.S. Energy Information Agency.

Climate change results from greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Inventories of U.S. GHG emissions consistently show that the majority of our emissions consist of carbon dioxide (CO2) from burning fossil fuel to create energy. This post looks at state emissions of CO2 from burning fossil fuel to create energy. Missouri did two GHG inventories in the early 1990s, but hasn’t done one since. Thus, this data is as close as we can come to assessing Missouri’s progress in reducing GHG emissions. The most recent data is through 2013.

Figure 1 shows that in Missouri CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuel to create energy grew 13% from 2000-2005, then began a decline through 2012 that reversed most of the growth. In 2013 they began increasing again. In 2013, CO2 emissions were 4.3% above the 2000 level.

 

Figure 2. Data source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Figure 2. Data source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Figure 2 shows similar data for Missouri and 4 neighboring states: Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, and Kansas. Kansas and Illinois have reduced their emissions, though only by a small amount. The other states have increased emissions, Arkansas the most at 6.6%.

 

.

.

.

.

.

.

Figure 3. Data source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Figure 3. Data source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Figure 3 shows change in CO2 emissions from 2000 to 2013 for all 50 states plus for the USA in total. Only 13 states have increased CO2 emissions over that period. The other 38 (list includes District of Columbia) have reduced CO2 emissions, in some instances by more than 25%. Nationwide, CO2 emissions are down 9.6%.

 

.

.

.

.

.

Figure 4: Data source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (a and b).

Figure 4: Data source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (a and b).

Figure 4 shows 2013 CO2 emissions from Missouri by Sector. The blue columns show the raw data. CO2 emissions from generating electric power dwarf those from any other sector. Electric utilities, however, don’t generate electricity for their own consumption, they generate it for others to use. The EIA keeps data on the sectors into which utilities sell their electricity, and it can be used to distribute their CO2 emissions to their end use sectors. Almost all of it goes to the Commercial, Residential, and Industrial Sectors. The red columns show the results.

The data suggest that converting electricity generation to renewable sources would probably be the the single most effective way to reduce Missouri CO2 emissions. To reduce CO2 emissions by reducing energy consumption in end use sectors, the Residential, Transportation, and Commercial sectors would all be of similar importance.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that we need to make significant reductions in CO2 emissions – 50% or more – if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. All states have a long way to go; most appear to have made some progress. Not Missouri.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to offer some posts that suggest that completely converting to renewable energy would require covering huge amounts of the country with wind and solar farms, without even considering the need for redundancy, excess capacity, and storage, all of which would be required. It would be a huge task.

That notwithstanding, Missouri’s performance on this metric is shameful. The fact that it is a huge, difficult task means that we aren’t going to be able to accomplish this transition overnight. We need to get cracking, and there is no excuse for avoiding it. I fear we will pay a heavy price for our inaction.

Sources:

United States Energy Information Administration. 2016. Table 1: State Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Year (2000-2013). http://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/state/analysis.

United States Energy Information Administration. “Sales and Revenue, 2013.” Form EIA 826 Detailed Data, Electricity. http://www.eig.gov/electricity/data/eia826/#salesrevenue.

U.S. GHG Emissions Increase

Figure 1: U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions 1990-2013; Source: Environmental Protection Agency 2015.

Figure 1: U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions 1990-2013; Source: Environmental Protection Agency 2015.

Greenhouse gas emissions were 6,673 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) in 2013, an increase of 128 MMCO2e (2%) from 2012, reports the Environmental Protection Agency in the most recent Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2013. Figure 1 at right shows the trend since 1990. GHG emissions increased through 2007, increasing 14%. Then they decreased until 2012, decreasing 11%. Then they rose in 2013 by 2%. Compared to 1990, emissions were 372 MMTCo2e (6%) higher in 2013.

The blue areas of the columns represents carbon dioxide, showing that it is by far the largest contributor to U.S. GHG emissions. It accounts for 82.5% of all emissions. Municipal, state, national, and worldwide GHG inventories almost always show that carbon dioxide is the largest contributor to GHG emissions.

Figure 2: U.S. GHG Emissions from Fossil Fuel and Other Sources, 2013. Data source: Environmental Protection Agency 2015.

Figure 2: U.S. GHG Emissions from Fossil Fuel and Other Sources, 2013. Data source: Environmental Protection Agency 2015.

Why are humans emitting so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? The third chart at right gives the answer: it is emitted when we burn fossil fuel to create energy. Burning fossil fuel to create energy doesn’t just account for the largest portion of carbon dioxide emissions, fully 77% of all GHG emissions can be attributed to it. Figure 2 at right shows the data. On the chart, all of the pie slices that are blue represent emissions from burning fossil fuel to create energy. Only the green and pink slices represent other sources.

.

.

.

.

U.S. GHG Emissions by Sector, Electricity Not Distributed, 2013. Data source: Environmental Protection Agency 2015.

Figure 3: U.S. GHG Emissions by Sector, Electricity Not Distributed, 2013. Data source: Environmental Protection Agency 2015.

So, what are we humans doing that is using so much energy and causing so much GHG to be emitted? GHG inventories try to answer the question by categorizing emissions into economic sectors. When this is done, it almost always shows that the electric power industry is the largest emitter. Figure 3 at right shows that in the United States in 2013, the electric power industry accounted for almost 1/3 of all emissions.

.

.

.

.

.

.

U.S. GHG Emissions by Sector, Electricity Distributed to End Uses, 2013. Data source: Environmental Protection Agency 2013.

Figure 4: U.S. GHG Emissions by Sector, Electricity Distributed to End Uses, 2013. Data source: Environmental Protection Agency 2013.

Electric utilities, however, do not generate electricity for their own use in their power plants, they generate it to distribute to others. If you distribute electricity generation to the sectors where it is used, then industry was the largest producer of GHG emissions, followed closely by transportation. The data are shown in Figure 4 at right. Thus, in 2013 what Americans did most to use energy and create GHG emissions was, first, to make stuff and, second, to drive and fly around.

As noted above, after several years of decreases, in 2013 GHG emissions increased some 2%. This is not good news. The United States has made progress in establishing policies intended to reduce GHG emissions, however, compared to 1990 our emissions are still 6% higher. The best science, as reviewed by the IPCC, suggests that we need to make steep cuts in GHG emissions, or we will wreck the climate of this planet. This is not a policy blog, so I will not get into discussions of possible policy responses. However, it is clear that, if we need to make significant cuts in the amount of GHG we emit, we are not getting there yet.

Source:

Environmental Protection Agency. 2015. Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2013. Retrieved online 12/29/15 at http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/Downloads/ghgemissions/US-GHG-Inventory-2015-Main-Text.pdf.

Kansas City Shows Progress

Kansas City, Columbia, and Creve Coeur have been among the most progressive cities in Missouri when it comes to climate change. Previously, I have reported on updates to the Columbia GHG inventory and the Creve Coeur GHG inventory. This post reports on the Greenhouse Gas Inventory Update 2013 for Kansas City. Kansas City’s original GHG inventory report studied GHG emissions in 2 years: 2000 and 2005. Comparisons between all 3 years are included in the new report.

Source: City of Kansas City 2015.

Source: City of Kansas City 2015.

In 2000, 2005, and 2013, total community emissions were 10.8, 11.4, and 10.5 Million Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (MTCO2e). Thus, they rose initially, but then declined, with an overall decline since 2000 of 2.7%. The chart at right shows the data by what the report calls fuel source. However, “residential energy” and “commercial energy” are not fuel sources. “Electricity,” “natural gas,” and “gasoline” would be true fuel sources. The categories in the chart appear to represent what have been called “sectors” in other GHG inventory reports. Commercial Energy accounted for 27.6% of total GHG emissions, while Transportation accounted for 25.7%, and Residential Energy accounted for 24.8%.

.

.

Source: City of Kansas City 2015.

Source: City of Kansas City 2015.

In the Columbia GHG inventory update, we noted that growing population can invalidate direct comparisons of GHG emissions between years. In the Creve Coeur GHG inventory update, we noted that large changes in the amount of building space under roof can have the same effect. Kansas City provides per capita GHG data, but it does not provide information about any other changes in the city that might affect comparisons. On a per capita basis, Kansas City’s GHG emissions have declined by 8.9% since 2000 (see second chart at right).

.

.

.

.

Source: City of Kansas CIty 2015.

Source: City of Kansas CIty 2015.

The third chart at right presents true fuel source data for 2013. Electricity consumption accounted for 58% of emissions, with combined gasoline and diesel second at 25%.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Kansas City Emissions from Government Operations. Source: City of Kansas City 2015.

Kansas City Emissions from Government Operations. Source: City of Kansas City 2015.

Kansas City has reduced emissions from government operations significantly. From 384,000 MTCO2e in 2000, they declined to 366,000 MTCO2e in 2005, and 287,000 MTCO2e in 2013. That is a decline of 25.2%. The fourth chart at right shows the data. By far the largest source of emissions was the consumption of electricity.

.

.

.

.

.

Kansas City Government Emissions by Department, 2013. Source: City of Kansas City 2015.

Kansas City Government Emissions by Department, 2013. Source: City of Kansas City 2015.

The fifth chart at right shows emissions from government operations by department for 2013. While supplying water accounted for less than 1% of total community emissions, it accounted for 41% of emissions from government operations. This is a common finding among cities that operate a water utility. Public Works was the next largest, with 23% of emissions.

Like Creve Coeur, the Kansas City government has made good progress in reducing GHG emissions from its operations: 25.2%. The Kansas City community has reduced emissions by 8.9% on a per capita basis, but it has a long way to go to meet the target it set: 30% by 2030.

Source:

City of Kansas City Missouri. 2015. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Update 2013. Downloaded 2015-12-20 from https://kcstat.kcmo.org/Sustainability/2013-GHG-Inventory-5-2015-FINAL/5eqa-9amg.

Creve Coeur Shows Progress

Creve Coeur has been one of the most progressive cities in the St. Louis region when it comes to climate change. They were the first in the region to study their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG emissions), one of the first to adopt the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, and one of the first to create a Climate Action Plan. Their goal, adopted in 2010, was to reduce GHG emissions 20% by 2015. Their new follow-up GHG inventory for the year 2014 is the first one in the region.

Data source: Garcia 2014.

Creve Coeur community emissions declined 10% from the 2014 business-as-usual estimate. Data source: Garcia 2014.

According to the update, Creve Coeur’s total emissions grew by about 0.3% between 2005 and 2014. In 2014, however, Creve Coeur was not the same city as it was in 2005: more than 2 million square feet of commercial space under roof had been added, and the population had also grown. Compared to what emissions would have been had Creve Coeur continued to emit at the same rate as in 2005 (business as usual), however, emissions were reduced about 10%. The first chart at right shows the data. (Note that the chart does not start at zero to better show the change.)

(Click on chart for larger view.)

Using the social cost of carbon as estimated by the federal government, Creve Coeur found that by reducing its emissions that much from business as usual, the city had prevented almost $2.8 million in environmental and economic damage in 2014 alone.

.

Commercial buildings accounted for the lion's share of emissions. Data source: Garcia 2015.

Commercial buildings accounted for the lion’s share of emissions. Data source: Garcia 2015.

Fully 60% of Creve Coeur’s community emissions came from energy consumed in commercial buildings (second chart at right). Some of this energy represents energy to operate the building, and some of it represents energy used in conducting the activities that occur inside the building (refrigerators in a supermarket, for instance). Together, the built environment (commercial plus residential) account for 78% of emissions.

Emissions resulting from operations of the city government are a subset of total community emissions, but they are studied separately in a GHG inventory for 2 reasons. First, the government controls its own operations directly, while can only attempt to influence community operations through policy. Second, it helps to demonstrate leadership.

.

.

Creve Coeur emissions from government operations declined by 20%. Source: Garcia 2015.

Creve Coeur emissions from government operations declined by 20%. Source: Garcia 2015.

Emissions from Creve Coeur government operations were reduced by 20% from 2005 (third chart at right). Thus, the Creve Coeur government met its goal of a 20% reduction a year early. The reductions were achieved mostly through energy conservation. By reducing energy consumption, the city saved $31,022 in 2014, despite experiencing a 7% increase in energy rates.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Data source: Garcia 2015.

Data source: Garcia 2015.

As in 2005, the largest source of GHG emissions were the three large buildings operated by the city: the Dielmann Recreational Complex, the City Government Center, and the Public Works Garage. The fourth chart at right shows the data.

As data from municipalities in the St. Louis region continues to accrue, it becomes ever clearer that our greenhouse gases come primarily from energy consumption, and that dirty electricity is the #1 culprit. We simply must have clean energy from our electric utilities.

By reducing GHG emissions, the Creve Coeur has prevented $2.8 million in environmental damage and has reduced its energy costs by $31,022. Those benefits will accrue to the city every year it continues to abate GHG emissions. Well done Creve Coeur.

Sources:

Garcia, Luis. 2015. City of Creve Coeur, Missouri Updated Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory for 2014. This is a public document, and hence, is available from the City of Creve Coeur, 300 N. New Ballas Rd., Creve Coeur, MO, 63141. At some point in the future it will likely be posted on their website, but it is not there yet.

Kellum, Spencer. 2008. City of Creve Coeur, Missouri Baseline Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory for 2005. Available on the City of Creve Coeur’s website at http://www.creve-coeur.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/760.