EIA: Carbon Intensity Electric Power Sector Lower than Natural Gas

Of the five major energy-consuming sectors in the United States, the industrial sector produced the least amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) per unit of primary energy consumed in 2016, with emissions of 44 kilograms CO2 per million British thermal units (kg CO2/MMBtu). The electric power sector, previously one of the more carbon-intensive sectors, produced 48 kg CO2/MMBtu in 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration report.

After averaging near 60 kg CO2/MMBtu for decades, the electric power sector’s carbon intensity fell to 48 kg CO2/MMBtu in 2016. This intensity is slightly lower than that of natural gas, which produces 53 kg CO2/MMBtu. In other words, the combustion-weighted average of all fuels used to produce electricity in the United States (coal, natural gas, petroleum, nuclear, renewables) is now lower than the carbon intensity of natural gas.


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