US energy sector emissions increased slightly in 2013,
new data from the Energy Information Administration
(EIA). This may seem like bad news for President Obama, who
has pledged to cut the country's emissions 17 per cent by 2020.
Obama unveiled his
clean power plan earlier this year to much
fanfare. The centrepiece of the plan is to reduce emissions
from electricity generation by 30 per cent by 2020.
The US's rising energy sector emissions seem to
suggest the policy may not be as effective as Obama hopes.
Obama's clean power plan specifically targets emissions from
power generation, which accounts for
about 32 per cent of the US's total emissions. Cutting
emissions from the US's homes and businesses is a much smaller part
of his wider
Climate Action Plan.
The EIA's data shows the potential limitations of focusing on
cutting power generation emissions without addressing the country's
broader energy consumption.
US energy sector emissions increased 2.5 per cent in 2013
compared to year before, the EIA's data shows. The EIA says the
main reason for the increase was colder weather.
Winter temperatures at the start of 2013 were lower than a year
before, and the US also experienced a particularly mild spring last
year. Temperatures fell again later in the year, when the US
engulfed by the polar vortex.
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration, average monthly
temperatures. Graph by Carbon Brief.
Households and businesses turned up their thermostats in
response to the lower temperatures, which meant burning a lot more
gas and a bit more oil. The residential sector was responsible for
48 per cent of 2013's emissions increase, mostly due to heat
demand, the EIA says.