The topic of global warming continues to be as hot as our Earth is getting. However, countries all over the world are taking action to optimise clean energy and decrease CO2 emissions emitted each year. Although a topic of controversy in the US, there has been a surprising (but warmly welcomed) lowering of CO2 emissions. According to a recent analysis carried out by the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA), the US has managed to decrease its energy-related CO2 emissions by 3% in the period of 2018-2019. This should be considered a step forward as previously, in 2018, the US saw an increase in energy-related CO2 emissions by 3%. We take a look at the clean energy sources being utilised to achieve this decrease.
Why is this good news?
To understand why this is good news for Mother Earth (and for all of us who live here), we must look at the connection between CO2 emissions and increasing the Earth’s surface temperature. What is the connection? Carbon dioxide is released when certain substances are burned. When one burns coal, natural gas, oil and wood CO2 is released and this traps heat in the atmosphere. The more CO2 is released, the higher the Earth’s surface temperature will become. Therefore, optimising alternative energy sources to reduce these emissions is a sort after solution globally.
What sources of energy are the US utilising currently?
Today, fossil fuels are the largest sources of energy to generate electricity. Following that, is nuclear energy and lastly, renewable energy. Although the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity is still the leader in terms of energy producers in the US, the country has both nuclear and renewable energy sources as well. Focus and attention has been brought on optimising these clean energy sources.
Although nuclear energy is a non-sustainable source of energy, it is still a viable option to obtain clean energy. In 2019, this type of energy produced nearly 20% of the US’s electricity. With this type of source, we can get electricity from the energy released in a nuclear reaction. Some of the biggest producers of nuclear energy in the US are in New Hampshire, and South Carolina. The EIA confirmed that 61% New Hampshire’s energy came from nuclear energy and 56% of South Carolina’s energy came from this clean energy source as well.
Alternatively, to obtain clean and sustainable energy resources, there are renewable energy sources. These sources of energy cannot run out (i.e. they can be renewed). These are unlike the popular sources of energy that are dominant today. Examples of renewable energy sources include solar (sun), hydro (water), geothermal (heat from beneath the Earth’s surface) and wind. States such as California and Oregon are investing in producing more renewable energy. However, it is Washington that has taken the lead in producing the most renewable energy seen in the US. By primarily producing hydropower (with wind power quickly on the rise) Washington is able to produce 23.884 GW. Collectively, these alternative sources were responsible for producing 38% of US electric generation in 2019.
What other renewable energy sources are being used in the US?
It should be noted that the US’s renewable energy was predominantly sourced from water and wind energy sources. However, there are other sources that are contributing as well. These include: solar energy, biomass and geothermal energies.
Solar energy is (of course) light and heat energy from the sun. It can be converted to thermal or electricity energy. In 2019, 2% of the country’s electricity was produced from this source. Biomass energy is produced by burning plant or animal material. However, most commonly, plants such as corn and soy are burned. The heat created can be used to generate electricity. In 2019, 1% of the country’s electricity was produced from this source. Lastly, the US utilises geothermal energy. This energy comes from the heat beneath the Earth’s surface. With this, electricity can be generated. Geothermal energy is renewable as heat is being produced constantly by the Earth. In 2019, 0.5% of the country’s electricity was produced from this source.
All of these contributing clean energy sources are responsible for the lowering of CO2 emissions in the US this last year. The EIA confirmed that CO2 emissions in 2019 were approximately 150 million metric tonnes (MMmt) lower than their 2018 level. Which is not something to be overlooked. Will the US seriously focus and invest further in clean and renewable energy in the years to come? Hopefully, this is only the beginning. Considering the fact that a combination of clean energy sources were responsible for 96% of the reported CO2 emissions reduction, this does seem like an achievable route for the United States.