JULY 2, 2021
By Paul Homewood
Joe Biden has pledged to totally decarbonise the US electricity system by 2035, and to cut emissions by 50% from 2005 levels by 2030. But how does this stack up against what has actually been happening since 2005?
Let’s start by looking at emissions of carbon dioxide:
Between 2005 and 2019, emissions fell by 15%. To hit Biden’s target would need a further cut of 41% from 2019 levels. Yet during Obama’s eight year tenure, he only managed to cut them by 11%.
Meanwhile primary energy consumption is on the rise again, and is back to 2008 levels.
When we look at the energy mix, we find that renewable energy only provide for 6% of US energy consumption, a figure which has barely doubled since Obama took office, despite the billions in subsidies thrown at it.
Indeed, the biggest change in the mix has been the switch from coal to gas. Since 2005, coal consumption has declined by 11.5 EJ a yea, whilst that of natural gas has increased by 9.1 EJ. It would appear that it is this switch that has been mostly responsible for emissions cuts. [If anybody would like to do the calculations, I would be grateful!]
What all of this is saying, of course, is that the chances of Biden hitting his 50% emissions cut by 2030 are almost non-existent.
As for the power sector, fossil fuels still account for 60% of generation, with reliable generation from nuclear and hydro adding another 20% and 7% respectively. In contrast, wind and solar stand at a pitiful 11%. It seems unlikely that much nuclear capacity will be left by 2030, given its age.
Quite how Biden proposes to replace that 80% currently produced by fossil fuels and nuclear with renewable energy within the next 15 years, he refuses to say.