Record Coal Plant Closures In 2018 Didn’t Lower CO2 Emissions–They Went Up

trump coal minersDespite a record number of coal plant closures across the United States, the country’s power sector still experienced a rise in carbon [dioxide] emissions in 2018, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s annual report on emissions.

The agency estimated carbon dioxide output from U.S. power plants rose 0.6 percent in 2018 from the previous year, climbing to nearly 1.93 billion tons.

The rise in [CO2] emissions can be largely sourced to the country’s growing economy, which spurned a five percent rise in electric generation over the year.

Wednesday’s report demonstrates the difficulty in lowering the country’s [CO2] emissions in the wake of a growing economy — even when coal plants are shuttering at a dramatic rate.

The U.S. power market hasn’t been a friendly environment for coal. Faced against subsidy-backed renewables, cheap natural gas and burdensome regulations, coal-fired plants across the country are retiring quickly with no signs of a revival on the horizon.

Altogether, 14 gigawatts of coal capacity at 20 different power plants closed down in 2018, not counting the coal plants that were switched to natural gas or idled. It was the second-highest year for coal plant retirements in U.S. history.

The demise of the coal industry has been welcome news for environmental activists who believe its eradication is tantamount to reducing greenhouse gases and combating climate change.

However, as the EPA report shows, numerous other factors contribute to [CO2] emission numbers.

Electricity demand naturally runs in tandem with economic growth — and the U.S. economy soared in 2018, growing at its fastest rate in well over a decade.

While policymakers continue to direct their climate change efforts onto the power sector, other sources of [CO2] emissions continue to rise, such as the country’s transportation sector.

Additionally, the demise of coal has been largely offset by the growing demand for natural gas and oil.

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