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Coal Is Down, But Emissions Are Up

A natural gas drilling rig on the Pinedale Anticline, just west of Wyoming's Wind River Range.
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A natural gas drilling rig on the Pinedale Anticline, just west of Wyoming's Wind River Range.

A new study shows US greenhouse gas emissions are going up. The natural gas boom is partially to blame. It’s a big industry in our region.

The 3.4% rise last year is the second biggest emissions jump in more than two decades. That’s according to the study done by the independent economic analyst company, Rhodium Group. 

The study says a near-record number of coal plants retired in 2018 but US power consumption increased, mainly due to an uptick in the economy. And the lost coal power was replaced by an even greater amount of natural gas production in the West and other parts of the country.

Daniel Kaffine, an energy economist at CU Boulder, said “with the advent of fracking and horizontal drilling, we’re also a larger producer of fossil fuels than we were in the past.”

And even as the government is shut down and the Environmental Protection Agency is closed, the Bureau of Land Management is still accepting new oil and gas drilling applications.

But the study also points to increased emissions from industry and buildings.

“Those are two sectors that have sort of been ignored or forgotten a little bit in terms of climate policy,” said Kaffine.

The report said quote “the US was already off track in meeting its Paris Agreement targets. The gap is even wider now headed into 2019.”

Efforts to get a comment for this story from the Environmental Protection Agency were unsuccessful due to the government shutdown.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2021 KRCC. To see more, visit KRCC.

Ali Budner is KRCC's reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, a journalism collaborative that unites six stations across the Mountain West, including stations in Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana to better serve the people of the region. The project focuses its reporting on topic areas including issues of land and water, growth, politics, and Western culture and heritage.
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