Okay ladies and gentlemen, you may not be prepared for this. You may have never heard these words in the same sentence before, but this story is about carbon emissions and it's actually good news. Well, it's not bad news anyway. Well, okay, it's not horrible news. Anyway, here it is: according to measurements by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, though America's energy use did grow in 2014, about 1 percent, carbon emissions barely grew at all! Okay, okay, they did grow, granted, but just a little, from 5,390 million metric tons to 5,410 million metric tons, so, 20 million metric tons. Compare that to the growth in carbon emissions from 2012 to 2013 of roughly 90 million metric tons. In any case, the reason for the reduction in US carbon emissions is definitely good news: the US is using more natural gas, wind and solar energy and less coal and petroleum. The bottom line is that US energy production is becoming much less carbon intensive.
"American manufacturers have gained confidence that natural gas prices will stay low for the long term," says A.J. Simon, an energy group leader at Livermore, "and have invested in equipment to switch from oil to natural gas feedstocks and fuels."
In 2014 natural gas use increased by 0.9 quads or quadrillions of BTUs, British Thermal Units. Simon thinks that this is likely due to the increase in the use natural gas pipelines which has been growing for the past decade.
Solar energy production saw a 33 percent jump in 2014, from .32 quads, in 2013 to .427 quads. Simon believes this change is likely due to both low global prices for solar panels and to new types financing for solar systems that allow customers not to have pay the up-front costs of solar system installation which have been barriers to many in the past. There have been large increases in both roof-top and solar utility-level generating plants.
Wind energy production also increased in 2014, 8 percent, growing from 1.6 quads to 1.73 quads. Hydroelectricity production, however went down in 2014, almost 4 percent because of the ongoing drought in California.
So that's all good news, but here's perhaps the most starling aspect of the Livermore chart: Take a look at the "rejected energy". That's a slightly easier to swallow way of saying wasted energy. Yep, that's right. More than half of the energy we produced in 2014 was wasted. So, the next time you dismiss the idea of swapping out the incandescent lightbulbs in your house with LEDs and other ways to make your personal energy use more efficient, as too costly, you may want to think twice.