U.S. Power Plant Carbon Emissions Fall to 27-Year Low

As coal-fired power plants shut down, the nation is getting more of its electricity from cleaner-burning natural gas and carbon-free solar and wind.

(Photo: acilo/Getty Images)

Aug 6, 2015· 0 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

In April, American power plants spewed out the least amount of carbon pollution in 27 years, the U.S. Department of Energy reported Wednesday.

The reason?

The nation generated more electricity from cleaner-burning natural gas plants and carbon-free sources such as solar and wind. At the same time, more coal-fired power plants are shutting down.

Electricity production generated 141 million tons of carbon dioxide in April, a month typically marked by low emissions as mild weather results in less use of heat and air conditioning. That’s a 26 percent decline from the country’s emissions peak of 192 million tons in April 2008 and the lowest of any month since 1988. Power plant emissions hit a high of 273 million tons in August 2007.

The news comes on the heels of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at power plants 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

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Energy Department economist Allen McFarland told The Associated Press the multiyear decline is not just a result of the recent economic slowdown. “You don’t have a 27-year low because of an economic blip,” he said. “There are more things happening than that.”

“Comparing April 1988 to April 2015, natural gas consumption in the sector more than tripled, renewable energy consumption more than doubled, nuclear energy consumption increased 47 percent, and coal consumption decreased 17 percent,” McFarland wrote in a blog post. “Electricity generation has become less energy and carbon intensive over time.”