Almost 80% of all greenhouse gasses are produced by three human activities:
According to NOAA, January 2020 was the hottest January on record globally. This record is one data point in a global trend of warming—one that is directly related to human emissions of greenhouse gases. Stabilizing our climate will require substantially reducing our emissions - and understanding where they’re coming from is a key part of the process. This week we discuss the emissions sources in the United States.
As defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. greenhouse gas emissions sources can be broken down into five sectors: transportation (29%), electricity (28%), industry (22%), commercial and residential (12%), and agriculture (9%). (emphasis added)
50% of all greenhouse gasses come from electricity generation and general industrial processes.
Fossil fuels account for the largest share of U.S. energy production and consumption
US Energy Information Administration
SEPTEMBER 14, 2020
Fossil fuels, or energy sources formed in the Earth’s crust from decayed organic material, including petroleum, natural gas, and coal, continue to account for the largest share of energy production and consumption in the United States. In 2019, 80% of domestic energy production was from fossil fuels, and 80% of domestic energy consumption originated from fossil fuels.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) publishes the U.S. total energy flow diagram to visualize U.S. energy from primary energy supply (production and imports) to disposition (consumption, exports, and net stock additions). In this diagram, losses that take place when primary energy sources are converted into electricity are allocated proportionally to the end-use sectors. The result is a visualization that associates the primary energy consumed to generate electricity with the end-use sectors of the retail electricity sales customers, even though the amount of electric energy end users directly consumed was significantly less…
In 2019, U.S. energy production exceeded energy consumption for the first time since 1957, and U.S. energy exports exceeded energy imports for the first time since 1952. U.S. energy net imports as a share of consumption peaked in 2005 at 30%. Although energy net imports fell below zero in 2019, many regions of the United States still import significant amounts of energy.
Most U.S. energy trade is from petroleum (crude oil and petroleum products), which accounted for 69% of energy exports and 86% of energy imports in 2019. Much of the imported crude oil is processed by U.S. refineries and is then exported as petroleum products. Petroleum products accounted for 42% of total U.S. energy exports in 2019.
The share of U.S. total energy consumption that originated from fossil fuels has fallen from its peak of 94% in 1966 to 80% in 2019. The total amount of fossil fuels consumed in the United States has also fallen from its peak of 86 quads in 2007. Since then, coal consumption has decreased by 11 quads. In 2019, renewable energy consumption in the United States surpassed coal consumption for the first time. The decrease in coal consumption, along with a 3-quad decrease in petroleum consumption, more than offset an 8-quad increase in natural gas consumption.
There will be no way to reverse the effects of carbon consumption on the climate unless we eliminate the use of fossil fuels in commercial and industrial processes:
Fossil Gas: Part of the problem and never the answer
June 17, 2020
Gas is a fossil fuel. And its use is growing at a rate faster than any other on the planet. Since 2016 fossil gas has been responsible for more than half of the increase in global greenhouse gas emissions. In the European Union carbon dioxide emissions from fossil gas are now projected to have exceeded those from coal.
Just like coal and oil, fossil gas is worsening the climate crisis. But with the world having woken up to the dangers posed by other fossil fuels, the industry is looking increasingly to gas to continue to reap huge profits - but this would come at the expense of both people and planet. We cannot let that happen. If gas continues to be produced at the current rate, even the complete phasing out of coal and oil wouldn’t be enough to avoid the worst impacts of climate breakdown.
Our 2019 report “Overexposed” revealed just how serious this problem is. It found that all production from new oil and gas fields – beyond those already in production or development – is incompatible with the Paris Agreement goal of keeping warming under 1.5°C. A goal climate scientists have warned must be achieved to curb the threat of climate change. Achieving this target requires gas production and consumption to drop by 40 percent worldwide over the next decade.
What do the primary drivers of climate change have in common?
Two intertwined factors- huge profits and corruption.
The Fossil Fuel Industry’s Dark Money Is Getting Even Darker
A fossil fuel company admitted it made $9.5 million worth of political expenditures to advance its corporate interests — and a Delaware court is helping hide the details.
In its landmark Citizens United ruling, the Supreme Court insisted that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption,” and conservative justices added that such political “expenditures do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption.”
But a little-noticed court case involving the fossil fuel industry recounts a much different reality — and now the judiciary is trying to make sure the public can never see the ugly details…
In trying to prevent the public from learning exactly which candidates or political groups received the money, Extraction explicitly says that its executives make political donations “as part of their business strategy” to protect their corporate interests.
“Such contributions are made to protect both the current interests of the debtors as well as the debtors’ long-term interests,” wrote Extraction’s lawyers. They said:
It is likely that the disclosure of the specific recipients of the debtors’ contributions would jeopardize many of the debtors’ business relationships, which in turn would adversely affect the debtors’ business. The public disclosure of certain contributions (or the lack thereof) would also adversely affect the debtors’ longstanding relationships with both state and local governments.
Corruption is Hindering the Global Transition to Renewable Energy
MAURICE ONIANGO/ International Anti-Corruption Conference
DECEMBER 3, 2020
Corruption is one of the biggest threats to effective climate action and an obstacle to the global transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
After decades of benefitting from the lucrative oil and gas business, fossil fuel companies and governments of producer countries are now hampering efforts to move away from fossil fuels, according to Alexandra Gillies from the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI)…
Gillies sees three main types of culprits behind this: international (private) oil companies, oil-rich governments and national oil companies, who use both legal and illegal means to further their economic interests. They acquire undue influence through various ways, such as campaign donations and lobbying – many of their techniques fall into grey areas, as they might be legal in some jurisdictions.
The single most egregious form of corruption is the use of tax dollars by governments around the world to subsidize the extraction and use of carbon based energy sources:
Fossil Fuel Subsidies Overview
Oil Change International
One of the most urgent reasons to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies is the rapidly dwindling carbon budget – the remaining amount of greenhouse gases we are able to emit while having a hope of staying below the temperature warming limits agreed to by world leaders. But, there is enough carbon in the fossil fuel resources already under development, globally, to surpass those limits. Simply put, we can not develop any new oil, gas, and coal resources and hope to stay on target. In this context, putting public money towards finding and burning more fossil fuels just doesn’t make sense.
Support for fossil fuel production also adds to the risks of “carbon lock-in”. Carbon- and capital-intensive infrastructure can last for decades, and investment in this infrastructure can mean that fossil fuel dependence – and the carbon emissions that come with it – get “locked in.” This makes the urgently-needed transition to climate-compatible energy pathways much more difficult.
Subsidies to fossil fuels support an industry that drives negative public health impacts, local environmental pollution from fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure, and climate change impacts and costs.
Fossil fuel subsidies essentially function as a negative carbon price, reducing the cost of developing fossil fuels – so not only are their true costs being shifted onto the poor via climate and health impacts, but the fossil fuel industry is actually being paid for this privilege.
Fossil fuel subsidies also take public money away from other uses. Public money going to fossil fuels could instead go to social spending, health and development, clean energy, energy access for the poor, or other areas important to the public.
Internationally, governments provide at least $775 billion to $1 trillion annually in subsidies, not including other costs of fossil fuels related to climate change, environmental impacts, military conflicts and spending, and health impacts. This figure varies each year based on oil prices, but it is consistently in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Greater transparency in reporting would allow for more precise figures.
When externalities are included, as in a 2015 study by the International Monetary Fund, the unpaid costs of fossil fuels are upward of $5.3 trillion annually – which works out to a staggering $10 million per minute.
If governments provide upwards of $1 trillion in tax-funded subsidies each year, how does that relate to the profits of the carbon fuels industry?
The answer is… somewhat surprising:
BP, Shell, Chevron and Exxon accused of making huge profits while ‘passing the buck’ on climate change
Matthew Taylor and Jillian Ambrose/ The Guardian
Wed 12 Feb 2020
BP, Shell, Chevron and Exxon have made almost $2tn in profits in the past three decades as their exploitation of oil, gas and coal reserves has driven the planet to the brink of climate breakdown, according to analysis for the Guardian.
The scale of their profits is revealed as experts say the fossil fuel boom is coming to an end, with big oil entering a “death knell” phase, according to one prominent Wall St commentator.
Analysis for the Guardian by Taxpayers for Common Sense in the US reveals that since 1990 – at which point the impact of fossil fuel extraction on the climate had been well known to industry leaders and politicians for years, experts say – the big four companies have accumulated $1.991tn in profits.
Let’s break down the math here a little.
It took BP, Shell, Chevron and Exxon 30 years to rack up $2trillion in profits.
In the past three years alone, worldwide subsidies for the fossil fuel industry likely exceeded the aggregate amount of those profits.
Which leads to this question— How profitable would this industry be without the subsidies?
And those subsidies don’t include government spending related to maintaining the processes of carbon extraction, refining and distribution: spending on military forces, membership in international organizations related to the carbon combustion industries, and the costs of environmental degradation and the burden of illness (referred to euphemistically as ‘externalities’ that are shifted from the industry to the public, which bears these costs).
Environmental Justice *IS* Social Justice *IS* Economic Justice
The deleterious effects of carbon combustion are borne disproportionately by the poorest, most vulnerable populations worldwide:
There are a wide range of climate-sensitive health risks. Those discussed here include injuries and deaths from extreme events (for example, heat waves, storms, and floods), infectious diseases (including food-, water-, and vectorborne illnesses), and food and water insecurity. Other risks include the health impacts associated with drought and wildfires, and respiratory diseases associated with poor air quality. Health impacts associated with loss of livelihoods and conflicts over resources and migration are also of significant concern. With increasing information, estimated burdens in other areas (for example, mental health) also will likely increase.
Interactions between climate change and demographic, socioeconomic, and other factors, including inequities, will determine the future burden of climate-sensitive health outcomes.9 The health risks of climate change are and will continue to be distributed inequitably, with vulnerable populations and regions differentially affected. Some population groups (for example, older adults, people with chronic illnesses, people with mobility challenges, the poor and isolated, Black and Indigenous populations and other people of color, certain occupational groups, and women and girls) will suffer a disproportionate share of the impacts because of heightened physiological sensitivities, greater exposures, or less capacity to take protective actions.4
RACIAL DISPARITIES AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Aneesh Patnaik, Jiahn Son, Alice Feng, Crystal Ade/ PSCI
AUGUST 15, 2020
Environmental racism refers to the unequal access to a clean environment and basic environmental resources based on race. Communities of color are disproportionately victimized by environmental hazards and are far more likely to live in areas with heavy pollution. People of color are more likely to die of environmental causes, and more than half of the people who live close to hazardous waste are people of color. Some activists call environmental racism the new Jim Crow as it subjects communities of color to inequitable living conditions. This goes back to beliefs initially perpetuated by the institution of slavery when enslaved Africans were considered “disposable” because they were sent to work in conditions deemed too dangerous for white workers. The authorities in the United States, as well as the institutions in place, often treat areas that are home to minority residents as of less value than wealthy and predominantly white neighborhoods. The burdens of pollution, toxic waste, and poisoned resources are not distributed equally across society.
Environmental justice is a social justice movement that seeks to dismantle the flawed environmental policies that have long harmed low-income communities and communities of color, and instead pursue policy and development that work to create a sustainable, cooperative, and equitable future for the environment. It rests on the principle that everyone has a right to a clean and healthy environment, and the environmental justice movement strives to attain that. It also seeks to remedy the ills of environmental racism and to give everyone a liveable future. This movement initially began in the late 1980s, when a report was published (Toxic Waste and Race) that proved communities of color were subject to environmental degradation and dangerous pollution.