US Carbon Emission Trends

David Lawrence, a Yale-educated PhD geologist, held executive roles at energy giant Shell for many years. Following his tenure at Shell, David Lawrence founded Lawrence Energy Group, an energy consulting firm that rigorously evaluates the energy transition and analyses carbon reduction trends and strategies.

Between 2005 and 2017, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from energy consumption in the US declined by 758 million metric tons, a reduction of about 14 percent. In 2016, US carbon emissions were the lowest in 24 years. This decrease is attributed in large part to the shift of generating electricity with fuels derived from natural gas that are less carbon-intensive alternatives to petroleum and coal.

This trend may plateau in the next several years. US carbon emissions are projected to rise by just under 2 percent in 2018 and to remain steady for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, the level of emissions estimated for 2019 will be 13 percent lower than those recorded in 2005. Notably, carbon emissions in the US continued to decline even during periods of slight economic growth over this period, in large part because of the increased role of natural gas as well as the significant rise of wind energy and solar in the electricity sector.