NRDC 8th Annual Energy Report: Slow & Steady Won’t Win the Climate Race
WASHINGTON – America’s power plants met their carbon pollution reduction target 11 years earlier than anticipated under an Obama-era rule, even though the Trump administration officially repealed it, according to the 8th Annual Energy Report published today by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). Unfortunately, U.S. oil and gas drilling production also set records, underscoring the need for dramatically more clean energy progress to battle the escalating climate crisis.
The report, Slow and Steady Will Not Win the Climate Race, also reveals that despite a lack of federal clean energy leadership, states and utilities that have now committed to transitioning to 100 percent pollution-free power serve nearly 83 million U.S. households and businesses—representing almost half of the United States’ 2019 electricity demand. That will further boost the nation’s wind and solar production, which now provide a significant 10 percent of America’s electricity.
While economy-wide U.S. carbon emissions fell 3 percent last year, they were only 8 percent lower than 2010 levels, far from the 50 percent drop necessary by the end of this decade to help keep the increase in global warming below 1.5 ⁰C by the end of this century. The United States will have to quintuple the amount of emission cuts made in the last decade to achieve this target, the report said.
“The United States is at a critical moment. The incoming Biden administration can and should rapidly move to reverse the Trump clean energy rollbacks, reversals, and roadblocks before it’s too late to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change,” said report co-author Amanda Levin, a policy analyst with NRDC’s Climate and Clean Energy Program.
Co-author Sophia Ptacek, a member of NRDC’s Climate and Clean Energy Program policy analysis group, added that “the Biden administration should prioritize an equitable energy system that centers health, community well-being, and climate action.”
The new report details U.S. energy trends in an interactive and explanatory web page that includes maps, videos, and graphics along with text. It focuses largely on 2019 because final energy data is not released until 10 months after the previous year’s conclusion. However, recognizing the huge impact the pandemic and global recession are having on the energy sector, the report also addresses preliminary 2020 results.
Other key findings:
- U.S. oil and gas consumption accounted for 80 percent of America’s carbon emissions in 2019.
- The United States officially became the world’s top producer of crude oil in 2019 (overtaking Russia) and domestic U.S. fossil (aka “natural”) gas consumption was the highest on record.
- 2019 was the first year that coal provided less than 25 percent of total U.S. electricity generation (it was about 50 percent a decade ago). Reduced coal generation has contributed to steep reductions in health-harming nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide pollution, with power-related emissions for both pollutants falling below 1 million tons each for the first time since 1990.
- Since the start of 2019, 12 more states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico set “net-zero” requirements or goals (where any remaining climate-warming emissions are balanced, or “netted out,” by sequestering an equal amount from the atmosphere), covering either their power sector or entire economy. More than 210 cities and 150 businesses have made comparable pledges.
- In 2019 energy efficiency was the largest job creator of the clean energy economy at more than 2.3 million workers. Unfortunately, the pandemic took a severe toll, but employment numbers have begun to rise again.
- The United States saw more than 320,000 new EV sales in 2019, making it the third-largest EV market behind China and Europe. EV sales (including plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles) increased by over 355 percent from 2011 to 2019.
A blog by the report co-authors is posted here. NRDC’s previous annual energy reports are found here.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org