Greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, cars and other uses of energy in the U.S. are on the rise again after several years of declines, according to new government data that defies the Trump administration’s argument for rolling back regulations to fight pollution.
Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions — a category that includes electric power generation and transportation fuel use — are projected to rise 3 percent in 2018, the Energy Department said in a report this week that attributed the uptick to a warmer summer and colder winter. The jump comes after three years of declines as utilities increasingly shut down coal plants and switched to natural gas, which produces about half as much greenhouse gas emissions when burned to generate electricity.
As recently as October, Trump’s appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency pointed to falling greenhouse gas emissions to justify their deregulation agenda, which has included proposals to ease Obama-era limits on emissions from power plants, methane leaks from oil and gas facilities, drawing scorn from environmentalists.
“I think the Trump administration is trying to have their cake and eat it too,” said Mary Anne Hitt, a director with the Sierra Club. “They’re trying to take credit when the emissions go down but all of their actions are pushing the needle in the other direction.”
She said policies put in place by President Barack Obama, as well as a shift away from coal were driving the reductions.
The Energy Department included the 3 percent rise in emissions in a little noticed section of its monthly short-term outlook published Tuesday.
The EIA data represents 80 percent of U.S. carbon emissions. A separate inventory maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency tracks greenhouse gas emissions nationwide — from industry and livestock as well as electricity and transportation. No projections for 2018 have been issued but according to the most recent report, the U.S. emitted 6,511 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2016, a 1.9 percent decline from 2015.
The EPA said the U.S. remains a leader in carbon dioxide reductions pointing to a 14 percent drop in energy related emissions from 2005 to 2017, while global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions increased more than 20 percent.
“Greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector are down 14 percent since 2005 continuing a downward trend that highlights how American innovation and technology, not burdensome federal regulations, have improved environmental outcomes,” Michael Abboud, a spokesman for the agency said in a statement.
Data from industrial facilities released by the EPA in October showed total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell 2.7 percent between 2016 and 2017. The EPA said power plant emissions in 2017 were down 4.5 percent compared with 2016 and 19.7 percent since 2011.
“The Trump administration has proven that federal regulations are not necessary to drive CO2 reductions,” Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said in a statement at the time.