After falling by 3 percent in 2008 and nearly 7% in 2009, largely driven by the economic downturn, total U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions do not return to 2005 levels (5,980 million metric tons) until 2027, and then rise by an additional 5% from 2027 to 2035, reaching 6,315 million metric tons in 2035, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook Early Release Overview 2011 released on Thursday.
The full publication, referred to as “AEO2011,” with a complete discussion of the projection results and energy market issues, will be released in March 2011.
The economy is expected to become less carbon-intensive as energy-related CO2 emissions grow by 16 percent from 2009 to 2035—lower than the 21-percent increase in total energy use. Energy-related CO2 emissions per dollar of GDP decline by 42 percent, the report says.
“Under the assumption that current laws and regulations will remain generally unchanged throughout the projections,” the AEO2011 lists the following insights:
- A higher updated estimate of domestic shale gas resources supports increased natural gas production at prices below those in the 2010 Energy Outlook.
- Imports meet a major but declining share of total U.S. energy demand.
- Non-hydro renewables and natural gas are the fastest growing fuels used to generate electricity, but coal remains the dominant fuel because of the large amount of existing capacity.
- Industrial natural gas demand recovers, reversing recent trend.
- CO2 emissions grow slowly, but do not reach 2005 levels until 2027.
Also on Thursday, California lawmakers set standards for the nation’s first cap-and-trade program controlling greenhouse-gas emissions as part of the state’s four-year-old climate law.
The Air Resources Board approved “AB32,” a key element of California’s 2006 law that had a Jan. 1, 2011, deadline for implementing the cap-and-trade system.
California is trying to “fill the vacuum created by the failure of Congress to pass any kind of climate or energy legislation for many years now,” said Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the state’s air quality board.
Under the new rules, regulators would enforce limits on heat-trapping gas emissions beginning in 2012; oil refineries and fuel distributors would be accountable starting in 2015. The cap would reach its lowest level in 2020, when California wants its greenhouse gas emissions reduced to 1990 levels.