US en­ergy use surges de­spite cli­mate con­cern

The Tribune (SLO) - - Insight - BY ELLEN KNICKMEYER


Amer­i­cans burned a record amount of en­ergy in 2018, with a 10% jump in con­sump­tion from boom­ing nat­u­ral gas help­ing to lead the way, the U.S. En­ergy In­for­ma­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion says.

Over­all con­sump­tion of all kinds of fu­els rose 4% year on year, the largest such in­crease in eight years, a re­port this week from the agency said. Fos­sil fu­els in all ac­counted for 80% of Amer­i­cans’ en­ergy use.

That’s de­spite in­creas­ingly ur­gent warn­ings from sci­en­tists that hu­mans are run­ning out of time to stave off the harsh­est ef­fects of cli­mate change by cut­ting harm­ful emis­sions from con­sum­ing coal, oil and nat­u­ral gas.

A 2018 Na­tional Cli­mate As­sess­ment in­volv­ing sci­en­tists from 13 gov­ern­ment agen­cies and out­side experts warned that cli­mate change al­ready “presents grow­ing chal­lenges to hu­man health and quality of life, the econ­omy, and the nat­u­ral sys­tems that sup­port us.”

Last month was the sec­ond hottest March glob­ally on record with an av­er­age tem­per­a­ture of 56.8, nearly 2 de­grees warmer than the 20th cen­tury av­er­age, be­hind only March 2016, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

This week’s re­port says the 2018 weather led Amer­i­cans to turn on their fur­naces and air con­di­tion­ers more of­ten last year. With the U.S. shale oil and gas boom help­ing make nat­u­ral gas in­creas­ingly af­ford­able, and with more power plants run­ning on nat­u­ral gas, nat­u­ral gas con­sump­tion by the na­tional elec­tri­cal grid rose 15% from 2017.

Re­new­able en­ergy con­sump­tion also hit a record high, led by a 22% jump in the use of so­lar power, the agency said.

How­ever, coal con­sump­tion fell for a fifth straight year na­tion­ally de­spite pledges from can­di­date and then pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to bring back the coal in­dus­try and coal jobs.

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