The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

The Science of Emissions Progress

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted October 13, 2016

A couple of charts and a great-news story for the United States in terms of its carbon dioxide emissions.

First, the Obama administration tells us that CO2 emissions from energy use during the first six months of the year are at their lowest level in 25 years:

2016 - carbon pollution from U.S. energy sector is lowest in 25 years

That’s a really big deal, considering overall U.S. efforts to make climate progress. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) notes that emissions totaled 2,530 million metric tons in 2016’s first six months, the lowest level for the first six months of the year since 1991. EIA projects energy-related emissions for the year will be 5,179 million metric tons, the lowest annual total since 1992.

Now, if that’s the “what,” let’s look at the “why,” illustrated in the chart below (EIA data):

API C02 emissions fall

The red line is plummeting CO2 emissions from electrical generation – following the same arc as in the administration’s chart. The blue line here is increasing use of natural gas for electricity generation, thanks to abundant and affordable supplies made possible by hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Check it out: Beginning in 2014 the two lines basically are running away from each other, illustrating natural gas’ role in reducing emissions. This should be of particular note to those who are seeking to block the safe production and distribution of natural gas – efforts antithetical to effective climate action.

The United States’ market-based approach – economic and energy growth accompanied by declining CO2 emissions – means increased energy security and climate progress without sacrificing the economy. Again, great news.

It follows President Obama touting the role of natural gas in reducing energy-related carbon emissions, a new report by his National Economic Council stating that U.S. manufacturers enjoy a significant competitive edge because of affordable natural gas and a separate EIA report noting that American consumers are paying less for electricity because abundant natural gas is lowering generating costs. Marty Durbin, API market development executive director:

“The increased use of natural gas has reduced carbon emissions, lowered costs to American consumers, and increased our nation’s manufacturing competitiveness. Moving forward, we must embrace our nation’s leadership so American consumers, workers, and the environment continue to benefit from America’s energy renaissance.”


Mark Green joins API after spending 16 years as national editorial writer in the Washington Bureau of The Oklahoman newspaper. In all, he has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, including six years as sports editor at The Washington Times. He lives in Occoquan, Virginia, with his wife Pamela. Mark graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism and earned a masters in journalism and public affairs at American University. He's currently working on a masters in history at George Mason University, where he also teaches as an adjunct professor in the Communication Department.