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The time is now.

Climate scientists have said that in order to avoid the worst possible outcomes, we must decarbonize our entire global economy by mid-century. In order to move the United States toward a 100 percent clean energy economy we must:

Transition to 100% clean power
Replace coal and gas with renewable and zero-carbon energy sources.

Replace oil burning cars and trucks with electric vehicles
Replace gasoline and diesel fueled cars, trucks, and buses with electric vehicles while simultaneously working to increase access to public transit.

Eliminate building emissions
Replace fossil fuels with electricity in buildings. Switching from gas and oil furnaces will help create a cleaner electrical grid, a key climate solution.

Modernize industry and infrastructure
Reduce emissions from manufacturing and other industries by promoting cleaner production methods and ending wasteful flaring and leakage of methane gas.

Repay our debt to coal producing communities
It is a key priority to establish the framework for a robust economic future for the workers and communities who sacrificed to produce the fossil fuels that built our modern economy. Beyond Carbon will partner with local organizations working to diversify the economic base, create new jobs, and to ensure the economic benefits of the clean energy economy are shared in all communities.

Emissions continue to rise

Carbon emissions are rising or holding steady in four of the five economic sectors. While the electricity sector has seen a significant decline, due largely to the retirement of coal plants, preliminary 2018 data indicates that carbon emissions from the electricity sector increased for the first time in a decade.

Energy-related CO2 emissions in million metric tons

Emissions by sector

Carbon pollution generally comes from five economic sectors. Beyond Carbon is targeting the sectors with high carbon pollution and available alternatives.

Total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector in 2017

Total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector in 2017

Sector-by-sector breakdown

Each economic sector has unique challenges on the path to clean energy – the good news is that the tools to transition these industries are available.

 

Electricity Sector

Carbon sources:

The electricity sector includes all the power plants around the country that generate the electricity that turns your lights on and powers your appliances. Historically, this sector has been the biggest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Burning coal and gas is almost entirely responsible for the electricity sector’s carbon pollution.

However, this sector has also made the most progress in reducing emissions.

Carbon emissions from power generation declined over 27% between 2005 and 2017 – a pollution cut large enough to bring overall United States emissions down 12% over the same period.

The solution:

The retirement of coal plants, combined with increasingly efficient use of energy, has been the greatest factor in reducing carbon pollution in the electricity sector. To move the country to a 100% clean electricity sector, coal plants need to be retired at a faster rate, we need to stop the increase in gas power plants and start retiring them, and replace those fossil fuels with clean energy, such as wind and solar.

Wind and solar have dropped in price to the point that they are competitive with or cheaper than fossil fuels, in large part because smart, innovative policy choices have provided economies of scale. For example, many states have instituted renewable energy standards requiring minimum levels of investment.  California, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Washington have standards requiring 100% clean electricity by 2045.

Electricity and total U.S. emission decline, 2005-2017

Coal plant retirements across the U.S.

A map showing Coal plant retirements in the U.S., including capacity

290 coal plants have been retired in the U.S. since 2011 (as of June 2019)

Electricity Sector

Carbon sources:

The electricity sector includes all the power plants around the country that generate the electricity that turns your lights on and powers your appliances. Historically, this sector has been the biggest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Burning coal and gas is almost entirely responsible for the electricity sector’s carbon pollution.

However, this sector has also made the most progress in reducing emissions.

Carbon emissions from power generation declined over 27% between 2005 and 2017 – a pollution cut large enough to bring overall United States emissions down 12% over the same period.

The solution:

The retirement of coal plants, combined with increasingly efficient use of energy, has been the greatest factor in reducing carbon pollution in the electricity sector. To move the country to a 100% clean electricity sector, coal plants need to be retired at a faster rate, we need to stop the increase in gas power plants and start retiring them, and replace those fossil fuels with clean energy, such as wind and solar.

Wind and solar have dropped in price to the point that they are competitive with or cheaper than fossil fuels, in large part because smart, innovative policy choices have provided economies of scale. For example, many states have instituted renewable energy standards requiring minimum levels of investment.  California, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Washington have standards requiring 100% clean electricity by 2045.

Electricity and total U.S. emission decline, 2005-2017

Coal plant retirements across the U.S.

A map showing Coal plant retirements in the U.S., including capacity

289 coal plants have been retired in the U.S. since 2011 (as of May 2019)

Transportation sector

Carbon sources:

The transportation sector is now the leading source of climate pollution in the United States. About 60% of the transportation sector’s carbon pollution comes from burning gasoline and diesel in passenger cars and trucks, nearly 25% comes from medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks and the remainder comes from planes, ships, and other off-road uses.

Cars and trucks are increasingly fuel-efficient, but more people driving more miles equals more pollution even with such progress.

2016 U.S. transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions by source

The solution:

Electric vehicles are hitting the market and electricity is cheaper than gasoline. Soon, electric vehicles will be cheaper to own and operate than gasoline or diesel -powered vehicles for most people and uses. As our electricity comes from cleaner and cleaner sources, the path to eliminating carbon pollution from the transportation sector is electrifying as much of our transportation fleet as possible.

Increased mass transit availability is another key solution to reduce transportation emissions. The United States lags in available bus and rail options.

Transportation sector

Carbon sources:

The transportation sector is now the leading source of climate pollution in the United States. About 60% of the transportation sector’s carbon pollution comes from burning gasoline and diesel in passenger cars and trucks, nearly 25% comes from medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks and the remainder comes from planes, ships, and other off-road uses.

Cars and trucks are increasingly fuel-efficient, but more people driving more miles equals more pollution even with such progress.

2016 U.S. transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions by source

The solution:

Electric vehicles are hitting the market and electricity is cheaper than gasoline. Soon, electric vehicles will be cheaper to own and operate than gasoline or diesel -powered vehicles for most people and uses. As our electricity comes from cleaner and cleaner sources, the path to eliminating carbon pollution from the transportation sector is electrifying as much of our transportation fleet as possible.

Increased mass transit availability is another key solution to reduce transportation emissions. The United States lags in available bus and rail options.

Building sector

Carbon sources:

The building sector’s carbon pollution comes from emissions from homes and commercial buildings – stores, office buildings, warehouses, and more. Building emissions come almost entirely from the furnaces, hot water heaters, and other appliances that burn gas and oil.

The solution:

We already know how to decarbonize our buildings. In many parts of the country, progress has been made as furnaces and heaters have become more efficient by burning less gas and oil to generate the same amount of heat.

But despite this increased efficiency, emissions have not declined. Buildings are now one of the major sources of air pollution, threatening both our health and the climate. New buildings should be powered with pollution free electric heating, cooling and cooking appliances.  As gas and oil burning appliances in existing buildings wear out, they should be replaced with electric heating, cooling and cooking. While electric alternatives used to be less efficient and more expensive, electric heating and cooling pumps – think an air conditioner that also operates in reverse – are increasingly efficient and cost-effective. And induction cooking is now the state of the art for even top line restaurants.

Building sector

Carbon sources:

The building sector’s carbon pollution comes from emissions from homes and commercial buildings – stores, office buildings, warehouses, and more. Building emissions come almost entirely from the furnaces, hot water heaters, and other appliances that burn gas and oil.

The solution:

We already know how to decarbonize our buildings. In many parts of the country, progress has been made as furnaces and heaters have become more efficient by burning less gas and oil to generate the same amount of heat.

But despite this increased efficiency, emissions have not declined. Buildings are now one of the major sources of air pollution, threatening both our health and the climate. New buildings should be powered with pollution free electric heating, cooling and cooking appliances.  As gas and oil burning appliances in existing buildings wear out, they should be replaced with electric heating, cooling and cooking. While electric alternatives used to be less efficient and more expensive, electric heating and cooling pumps – think an air conditioner that also operates in reverse – are increasingly efficient and cost-effective. And induction cooking is now the state of the art for even top line restaurants.

Industrial sector

Carbon sources:

The industrial sector encompasses a range of industrial production facilities, including oil refineries, chemical manufacturers, factories, and steel mills.  The sources of pollution in the industrial sector vary. For example, oil and gas production generates methane leaks as oil and gas are produced and distributed through pipelines and other infrastructure. Oil and gas companies also deliberately release or burn methane, creating unnecessary, and highly damaging, pollution. For other sectors, carbon pollution comes from burning fossil fuels for industrial heating. Industries like chemicals and plastics use fossil fuels as inputs to make their products. And refrigeration technologies are increasingly reliant on “super-pollutants” like chlorofluorocarbons, a single molecule of which may be thousands as times more dangerous to the climate than a molecule of carbon dioxide.

The solution:

Most industrial sectors have cleaner production methods available. In oil and gas production, there are straightforward ways to find and seal leaks, and stop deliberate releases and burning of methane. States should require the industry to adopt state-of-the-art practices. There are effective replacement chemicals for climate-disrupting refrigerants.

Fossil fuels used in industrial heat can, in most cases, be replaced by electricity. Similarly, fossil fuels used as production inputs can, over time, be replaced by hydrogen or other alternatives. States can encourage cleaner production through the adoption of “buy clean” procurement policies. These policies encourage government purchase of products from companies that use lower-carbon production methods.

Industrial sector

Carbon sources:

The industrial sector encompasses a range of industrial production facilities, including oil refineries, chemical manufacturers, factories, and steel mills.  The sources of pollution in the industrial sector vary. For example, oil and gas production generates methane leaks as oil and gas are produced and distributed through pipelines and other infrastructure. Oil and gas companies also deliberately release or burn methane, creating unnecessary, and highly damaging, pollution. For other sectors, carbon pollution comes from burning fossil fuels for industrial heating. Industries like chemicals and plastics use fossil fuels as inputs to make their products. And refrigeration technologies are increasingly reliant on “super-pollutants” like chlorofluorocarbons, a single molecule of which may be thousands as times more dangerous to the climate than a molecule of carbon dioxide.

The solution:

Most industrial sectors have cleaner production methods available. In oil and gas production, there are straightforward ways to find and seal leaks, and stop deliberate releases and burning of methane. States should require the industry to adopt state-of-the-art practices. There are effective replacement chemicals for climate-disrupting refrigerants.

Fossil fuels used in Industrial heat can, in most cases, be replaced by electricity. Similarly, fossil fuels used as production inputs can, over time, be replaced by hydrogen or other alternatives. States can encourage cleaner production through the adoption of “buy clean” procurement policies. These policies encourage government purchase of products from companies that use lower-carbon production methods.

Agriculture sector

Carbon sources:

Agriculture, including forestry, is the other major sector that produces carbon pollution. The over-use of nitrogen-based fertilizers and unsustainable soil management practices generate the most greenhouse gas emissions, while cattle and manure management are also significant contributors.

The solution:

Reducing inputs like fertilizers, capturing methane from manure, and adopting regenerative farming practices like the use of cover crops can reduce agricultural climate pollution. In addition, agricultural and forest lands offer the unique opportunity to shift the sector from being a source of carbon emissions to reversing them by using sustainable practices that absorb more carbon from the air than is emitted.

Agriculture sector

Carbon sources:

Agriculture, including forestry, is the other major sector that produces carbon pollution. The over-use of nitrogen-based fertilizers and unsustainable soil management practices generate the most greenhouse gas emissions, while cattle and manure management are also significant contributors.

The solution:

Reducing inputs like fertilizers, capturing methane from manure, and adopting regenerative farming practices like the use of cover crops can reduce agricultural climate pollution. In addition, agricultural and forest lands offer the unique opportunity to shift the sector from being a source of carbon emissions to reversing them by using sustainable practices that absorb more carbon from the air than is emitted.

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