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EIA forecasts 10% decline in US annual energy-related CO2 emissions in 2020, lowest in years


Projected total for 2020 below 5 billion mt

EIA forecasts 4.8% increase in CO2 in 2021

Historic low came in 1983

  • Author
  • Jeffrey Ryser
  • Editor
  • Debiprasad Nayak
  • Commodity
  • Energy Coal Natural Gas Oil
  • Topic
  • Coronavirus and Commodities Energy Transition Environment and Sustainability

The Energy Information Administration has forecast a 10% annual decline in US energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 to below the 5 billion mt level for the first time since 1991.

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The decline is the result of less energy consumption related to COVID-19 mitigation efforts, the Sept. 24 "Current Issues and Trends" report said. The EIA also forecast a 4.8% CO2 emission increase in 2021, "as the economy recovers and energy use increases."

The EIA forecast for 2020 is for 4.61 billion mt of CO2 emissions, a decrease of 512 million mt from the 2019 level of 5.13 billion mt.

The projected decrease comes on the back of a projected 274 million mt drop in CO2 emissions from "petroleum and other liquid fuels," as well as a 197 million mt drop in CO2 emissions from coal and a 41 million mt decline in CO2 from natural gas.

The last time that annual US energy-related carbon dioxide emissions were below 5 billion mt was in 1991, when the total came to 4.99 billion mt.

The amount of energy-related carbon emissions grew steadily in the 1990's and early 2000s until it reached the 5.99 billion mt mark in 2005. It topped the 6 billion mt mark two years later, in 2007, for the first and only time.

Ten years later, in 2017, the annual total of energy-related emissions totaled 5.13 billion mt, a decline of 873 million mt, or roughly 14.5%, compared to the peak year of 2007.

Records since 1975

EIA forecasters are saying that in 2021 they expect a 196 million mt, or 4.8% increase in CO2 emissions compared to 2020.

The bulk of the increase, the report projects, will come from a 183 million mt increase in CO2 from petroleum and other liquid fuels, in other words from the transportation sector.

It is projecting, as well, a 114 million mt increase in CO2 from coal, from 879 million mt in 2020 to 993 million mt in 2021, which it believes will be partially offset by a 74 million mt year over year decline in CO2 from natural gas.

The projected 2021 total of 4.84 billion mt, however, is still on the historic low side.

The EIA first began publishing annual energy-related CO2 emission data in 1975. The previous all-time low came 1983, when 4.37 billion mt of CO2 emissions were reported.That was the year that a global oil glut took hold and demand began to fall.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Fuel (million of metric tons)
Petroleum and other liquid fuels
Natural gas
Total Energy
Source: EIA Short-term Energy Outlook