US CO2 emissions, First Half 2022

The Energy Information Administration recently reported US CO2 emissions from the consumption of energy for the first 6 months of 2022. Emissions are up 2.6% compared to the same period in 2021. Emissions increased about 8% in 2021, compared to the first half of 2020. Of course, 2020 was a year of world economic disruption because of the COVID response, so 2022 appears to be a continuation of the economic recovery. CO2 emissions this year are smaller, compared to the first 6 months of 2018 or 2019. Supply chains still appear to be messed up in several areas, and the effects of inflation (and the FED’s response to it) also impact the economy.

Looking at previous data, the following are the total CO2 emissions from energy for the years listed, just looking at the first half of each year.

      Million metric tons CO2
2018        2,607
2019        2,563
2020        2,226
2021        2,411
2022        2,473

In the link, the CO2 sources are broken down by the big three fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and petroleum products). The Total column adds in a small amount from minor sources which are not specifically listed. It can also be noted that of the big three fossil fuels, the largest source of CO2 is petroleum, followed by natural gas. Coal comes in 3rd in the US.

In the US, the general trends are: Increasing CO2 emissions from natural gas, Decreasing CO2 emissions from coal, and mostly unchanged for petroleum. However, as previously stated, the economic effects of the past few years have disrupted these trends to a certain extent. With a more normal economy (inflation brought under control, supply chains back to normal), we might be able to better see how the CO2 trends are going.

Last point. Based on the current trends, meeting the goal of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (based on 2005) is going to be a major challenge. Greenhouse gases are more than just CO2. Just my opinion, but I don’t see it happening by the 2030 deadline.

  • Pete
1 Like

I hope we are not missing Jaak from these discussions. He is very data driven. He’d be a huge loss.

For years, coal consumption was used as a measure of economic activity. Ditto electricity production. The general trend that CO2 production increases with the economy is expected. Moderated by increased use of green energy sources.

Merely breaking even seems to require a major increase in investment in green energy. Reduction even more.

At the moment, Electric Vehicles is our initiative most likely to achieve reductions. But even that requires more green energy.

Agreed meeting goals is a “major challenge.” Much more investment is required.


US CO2 emissions from energy have come down somewhat over the years. Using 2005 as the baseline, 2021 full-year emissions were about 19% lower than the baseline year. There are two main reasons for this. 1. Power plants burning natural gas have replaced many power plants that used to burn coal. 2. The buildup of the new renewables (wind, solar) have also contributed to the CO2 reduction. In terms of the electricity, the increase in generation from natural gas is larger than the increase in renewables.

Replacing a high-CO2 fuel (coal) with a lower CO2 fuel (nat. gas) is better than nothing, but natural gas is still a fossil fuel. Also, natural gas is not as cheap as it was a few years ago. Today’s $7 gas makes it more of a challenge to shut down coal.

  • Pete

No expert here, the numbers for how much NG could be taken out of deposits in the US has shifted upward but clearly is limited in economic terms.

People have been discussing Peak Oil, and by extension Peak Natural Gas, for a long time. At least 25 years? But there always seems to be more oil and gas taken out of the ground. I remember participating in a Peak Oil discussion board here on TMF for several years. That board now appears to be shut down. Last post was in 2020.

From the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, the following US production numbers for oil and natural gas can be seen.

              US Oil Production
Year      Thousand barrels per day
2011             7,890
2021            16,585

           US Nat Gas Production
Year        Billion Cubic Meters
2011             617.4
2021             934.2

World-wide, production is also going up. Yes, there has to be a finite limit of how much is there, but petroleum engineers have been successful in developing techniques such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to get more of those valuable hydrocarbons out of the ground.

  • Pete


Of course I agree we are extracting more and more NG. The limit is there. Early estimates were way off. But the use of NG is going to hit a wall that is different than oil. The price was rising before the war.