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US could achieve 2030 emissions goals this year

North AmericaCarbon ReductionPolicy

According to a professor’s analysis of data from the Energy Information Administration, the recent decline in coal production in the US has made carbon emission fall to the point where it has almost reached its 2030 emissions targets.

The fall in coal production –due to the relative low cost of natural gas –is evaluated at 29 per cent in 2016 compared with the previous year.

According to Daniel Cohan, an assistant professor of environmental engineering at Rice University, if the trend remains the same until the end of the year, depending on the weather and the evolution of the price of natural gas, the country could achieve a 32% reduction in emissions in comparison with its 2015 numbers, which is the final goal set for 2030 by the Clean Power Plan.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) argues that next winter is expected to be colder and the price of natural gas will go up, making coal attractive again, but Cohan disagrees with this declaration, noting that the agency has overestimated coal use on several occasions in the past.

Cohan said: “A rebound would have to overcome coal plant retirements, coal mining bankruptcies, and the possibility of another warm winter.”

The assistant professor added that “a broad array of emerging and cheapening technologies” has also contributed to transforming power markets, with a clear evolution of affordable renewables and increasing efficiency.

If coal was to rebound and the US did not achieve its 2030 goal this year, EIA estimates that the US would still be close to reaching the goal, as carbon emissions had already started to fall from 2005 to 2014 with 15 per cent decrease and another 4.5 per cent drop is expected by the EIA between 2015 and 2016.

Cohan added: “If we end up just a few percent away from the 2030 target this year, it becomes tough to argue that CPP is unattainable or too costly.”

Since February 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency had to stop the enforcement of the Clean Power Plan, due to a lawsuit against it, but the plan is the only thing that would prevent a protracted coal rebound in the future that could cancel the carbon emission progress.

Cohan concluded: “EIA’s longer term ‘Annual Energy Outlook’ forecasts an ongoing rebound in coal consumption... if the Clean Power Plan is not implemented.”

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