The AEO2014 Reference case says US energy-related CO2 emissions will fall to about 9 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, then rise to 7 percent below 2005 levels by 2040.
In 2009, President Obama pledged that by 2020, America would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to about 17 percent below 2005 levels – if all other major economies agreed to limit their emissions as well. The president’s climate plan, released in June, reiterates that goal.
According to the AEO2014 release, emissions in 2040 equal 5,599 million metric tons, 1.6 percent lower than in AEO2013. However, the carbon intensity of the economy in 2040 is slightly (0.6 percent) higher in AEO2014.
The latest release predicts generation from nuclear power in 2040 will be 10 percent below the predictions EIA made in AEO2013, as a result of increased nuclear plant retirements. This will partially offset reduced use of coal.
In the middle of the next decade, CO2 emissions associated with industrial activity (including electricity for the industrial sector) will begin to surpass transportation emissions for the first time since the late 1990s. The EIA expects low natural gas prices to boost natural gas-intensive industries, helping natural gas consumption in the industrial sector to increase from 8.7 quadrillion Btu in 2012 to 10.6 quadrillion Btu in 2025.
Overall in 2040, natural gas will account for 35 percent of total electricity generation, while coal will account for 32 percent, the report predicts.
It also expects average fuel efficiency for light-duty vehicles to increase from 21.5 mpg in 2012 to 37.2 mpg in 2040, which will “more than offset” an increase in miles travelled. Gasoline engines will still dominate, though about 42 percent of light-duty vehicles in 2040 will have “micro hybridization” features, the EIA says. Such features include regenerative brakes and stop-start systems, USA Today explains.
Takeaway: The US is predicted to fall far short of carbon reduction goals, due in part to nuclear plant retirements. Meanwhile increases in vehicle fuel efficiency will help to keep down emissions from that sector.
Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.