US saw drop in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2019, report says

Despite media reports predicting the contrary, U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions fell 2.9 percent last year, according to a report published Tuesday.

In fact, the International Energy Agency (IEA) found that the U.S. decrease in emissions was the largest total of any country, at 140 million tons. It also noted that over the last 20 years, U.S. emissions have decreased nearly one gigaton (1 billion metric tons).

Globally, emissions flatlined in 2019. After two years of growth, global emissions remained unchanged at 33 gigatons in 2019, even as the world economy grew by 2.9 percent.

“A significant decrease in emissions in advanced economies in 2019 offset continued growth elsewhere,” the IEA noted in a press release. Emission in the European Union fell by 160 million tons, or five percent, driven by reductions in the power sector. For the first time ever, natural gas produced more electricity than coal and wind-powered electricity nearly caught up with coal-fired electricity. Japan’s emissions fell by 45 million tons, or around 4 percent, as output from newly restarted nuclear reactors upticked this year. Emissions in most of the rest of the world grew by nearly 400 million tons in 2019, with almost 80 percent coming from countries in Asia where coal-fired power generation continued to rise.

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“Today’s IEA report on global emissions is proof positive that innovation and technology are the solution to the world’s climate challenges,” U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said in a statement Tuesday. “While emissions in other regions rose, global emissions flattened and were offset by reductions in the United States and other nations that have successfully deployed carbon capture, renewable energy, natural gas and nuclear power.”

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Last Friday Brouillette announced a $64 million initiative to fund research and development for coal, saying it would “help us produce more coal-based power more efficiently and transform it into a near-zero emissions energy source.”

He emphasized that the initiative would make coal plants smaller and more efficient, and also look for alternative uses for the fossil fuel which was once a livelihood to millions of families throughout coal country, but is now becoming a much smaller part of the U.S. energy sector.

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"Coal as a percentage of U.S. electricity generation is declining," he said, according to The Hill. "The efforts that we're undertaking is not to subsidize the industry and preserve their status … as a larger electricity generator. It is simply to make the product cleaner and to look for alternative uses for this product."