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Technical brief: transportation overtaking electricity generation as the largest source of US CO2 emissions

A technical brief by Dr. John DeCicco at the University of Michigan Energy Institute shows that transportation is overtaking electricity generation as the largest source of US CO2.

The average rate at which CO2 is emitted from vehicle tailpipes and other mobile sources has exceeded the rate of CO2 emissions from electric power plants over seven of the past eight months. Although efficiency gains are limiting transportation emissions growth, the gains are not enough to reduce the sector’s CO2 emissions in the face of increased travel and shipping, DeCicco writes. CO2 emissions from the transportation sector increased at an average rate of 1.8% per year over the past four years.

12-month running averages for transportation and electricity generation since late 2014. These curves smooth over the seasonal variations in the monthly data. Data derived from US EIA. Source: John DeCicco. Click to enlarge.

Further, electric sector CO2 emissions have dropped greatly in recent years, declining at an average rate of 2.8% per year over 2007-2015 due to the displacement of coal by natural gas, wind and solar for power production as well as energy efficiency gains.

On top of that, the Clean Power Plan will accelerate CO2 reductions in the electric sector, widening the gap by which transportation exceeds electricity in the years ahead unless additional steps are taken to reduce or offset the CO2 emitted by cars, trucks, aircraft and other mobile sources, DeCicco notes.

Projected CO2 emissions from transportation and electricity generation with and without the Clean Power Plan. Source: John DeCicco. Click to enlarge.

Stronger CAFE and GHG emissions standards for cars and trucks will help, but are not enough to put transportation sector CO2 emissions on a clearly declining trend. Additional measures, including ways to offset the CO2 emitted by liquid fuel use, will be needed to address the transportation-climate challenge.

—John DeCicco



The world (including USA & Canada) has elected to directly subsidize fossil fuels at the rate of $14+/B/year instead?

NPP industries need much better lobbies?

Ontario-Canada will eventually get $100B to $150B in grants (from the Fed Government) to refurbish 18-19 older CANDUs, even if it drives the Fed. further in debt. Alternatively, Ontario Hydro could be further privatized (by selling to Hydro One). Retail electricity would quickly go from $0.13/kWh to $0.26+/kWh in Ontario. Many industries would move to Mexico, with dire consequences for local employment?
Meanwhile, Quebec Hydro cannot sell its surplus clean electricity for $0.04/kWh. Its a crazy world?


Maybe HQ only has surplus hydro when everyone else has surpluses too.  Nobody's going to want your 4¢ power when their own wholesale cost is 2¢.

Your thinking on these matters is very shallow.


E-P, once again, you are rather unpolitely incorrect. Quebec Hydro has closed their unique 24/7 CANDU without affecting local availability and/or sales to Ontario-NB and Eastern USA. New Hydro plants and Wind Farms have replaced the CANDU by almost 3X. The current surplus will last till 2027+. Sales to USA are difficult due to very low price of NG and PPNG. Further clean Hydro/Wind developments will have to be delayed.

The e-energy saving programmes has been curtailed to no avail. New high efficiency low temperature (85% to -25C) high performance (SEER 30.5) Heat Pumps, much milder winters, improved construction code, improved thermostats and heaters, etc have contributed to lower overall consumption.

Quebec Hydro has closed their unique 24/7 CANDU without affecting local availability and/or sales to Ontario-NB and Eastern USA.

I believe you are wrong there.  I recall reading that HQ had to curtail sales to outside customers during the recent "polar vortex" cold snap because its capacity was maxed out.  Gentilly 2 would have given HQ another 675 MW to sell.  Maybe HQ has raised its hydro capacity since then, but that was then.


Yes, Hydro + Wind capacity were raised by +1,000 MW to compensate. More is being done.

Secondly, it is normal to buy a few MW from our neighbours during extremely cold hours/days. Alternatively, reducing (home) 120 VAC to 110 VAC is normally enough and/or asking customers to lower heating by 1C to 2C will also to it.

The lower Labrador (Nfld) Hydro project is having major delays + cost increases. The very high cost of the proposed land/sea HV lines may bankrupt the project and the local Province. A four (4) way deal (Fed + Nfld + QH + Ontario) to refinance and reroute the energy on QH lines may be one of the solution. In that case, QH surpluses would more than double and/or be enough to supply Ontario with 1,000+ MW for 20+ years while their CANDUs are being refurbished. The QH/Ontario interconnexions are being installed to reroute some Bay James energy to Ontario. Production in the Bay James area will be increased as required.

Private industry (via Hydro One) may be used to finance part of the Ontario CANDUs refurbishing cost.

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