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What fuels air pollution?

A look at CO2 emissions by fuel type


The U.S. Energy Information Administration collects data on CO2 emissions, and FRED has recently added these data to its catalog. The graph above stacks the amount of CO2 emitted from the three main energy sources: coal, natural gas, and petroleum. Given the recent shift in energy sources, it shouldn’t be surprising the coal-related share of emissions has declined as the natural gas-related share of emissions has grown. Now let’s look at the picture across different economic sectors.

Our second graph shows the sources of CO2 emissions from coal. Clearly, electric power generation creates the bulk of emissions. Industrial uses—the creation of steel, for example—contribute some emissions as well. The other sectors are negligible, with transportation registering a zero for all periods. (Coal-powered steam locomotives had been decommissioned by the start of the sample period.) Our next graph shows the same distribution for natural gas, with all sectors contributing to emissions. The shares seem pretty steady, except for the recent increases in the electric power sector.

The last graph shows emissions from petroleum use. Here, transportation creates the lion’s share and any changes in overall emissions can be traced back to that sector. So, if you give a hoot about reducing emissions from coal or natural gas, the power-generating sector seems key; for petroleum, transportation is key.

How these graphs were created: First graph: Search for “total carbon dioxide emissions,” restrict results in the side bar to “nation,” select the three series, and click “Add to Graph.” From the “Edit Graph” panel, open the “Format” tab and select graph type “Area” and stacking “Normal.” The three other graphs are built similarly by searching for “carbon dioxide emissions” and the respective fuel type. Adjust line colors in the “Format” tab so that each sector has the same color across graphs.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: EMISSCO2TOTVCCCOA, EMISSCO2TOTVCCNGA, EMISSCO2TOTVCCPEA, EMISSCO2TOTVECCOA, EMISSCO2TOTVECNGA, EMISSCO2TOTVECPEA, EMISSCO2TOTVICCOA, EMISSCO2TOTVICNGA, EMISSCO2TOTVICPEA, EMISSCO2TOTVRCCOA, EMISSCO2TOTVRCNGA, EMISSCO2TOTVRCPEA, EMISSCO2TOTVTCCOA, EMISSCO2TOTVTCNGA, EMISSCO2TOTVTCPEA, EMISSCO2TOTVTTCOUSA, EMISSCO2TOTVTTNGUSA, EMISSCO2TOTVTTPEUSA


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