Coal emissions rise in 2021 as economy begins recovery

DELMARVA – New data from the Rhodium Group shows that the fight against climate change took a tumble in 2021.

Compared to levels in 2020, economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions rose 6.2% in 2021. The Rhodium report also says that coal usage was a large factor in those increased emissions. The report says coal burned for electricity increased 17% in 2021. That’s the first year since 2014 that coal generation in the United States increased instead of decreasing.

UMES’ Chair of the Department of Natural Sciences Dr. Jonathan Cumming says that increase could be attributed to economic recovery amid COVID-19. “Once you have more activity, you have a lot more travel, but also goods being delivered. A lot of that CO2 is coming from the transportation sector. This could be produced together by both transportation and electricity use,” he said.

Dr. Cumming says that another factor playing into increased coal usage could be the rising costs of natural gas. “The price of natural gas has increased due to higher demand over the last couple of years. So, the switch now in recovery has lead to increased use of coal as an energy source. Coal is very a inefficient form of energy,” he said.

Although a large part of those emissions come from big corporations, Dr. Cumming says there are things we can do as individuals to help reduce our carbon footprint. “America is a capitalist society, and it’s all market driven supply and demand. If we demand electric cars and electric appliances instead of gas appliances, that’s what the market will react to,” he said. “Needless travel is one of those things that will rack up. Try to plan our your shopping endeavors, and go out once to get everything in one fell swoop instead of going out over and over again.”​

On the local level, Dr. Cumming also says he hopes natural gas recently brought to Princess Anne will help reduce the carbon footprint in short term. He says that will hopefully lead to more efficient energy in long term. “A lot of little things put together can add up to a big effect. I think as a country, if we use that approach, we could actually work towards reducing our CO2 impact,” said Dr. Cumming

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