USA – overview

As the country that seems to dominate world attention on climate change, from Al Gore’s two films to Donald Trumps recklessness on maintaining the fossil fuel industry and attempting to erase environmental protections, there is so much to write about how the USA is a pivotal player in either aggravating, or holding back global warming. With an administration largely denying even the existence of climate change, so much depends on non-fossil fuel corporate America, NGOs and ordinary people taking up the challenge. Here I present the information – progress on renewables, as well as the harm that American lifestyles themselves add to the problem.

Latest news:

June 1 2018: Paris deal: a year after Trump announced US exit, a coalition fights to fill the gap. In the year since, an alliance of American cities, states and green groups have flung themselves at the gaping void left by Trump’s decision. This coalition has experienced a bruising 12 months during which successes at a local level have been regularly overshadowed by an administration intent on tearing down any edifice of climate policy. This backlash has spurred cities to quicken the pace in certain areas; New York is to electrify its bus fleet and Los Angeles has promised to abandon coal-fired electricity.  link                   

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USA – wind

(March 2017) The energy generated by wind turbines in the United States supplied more than 5.5% of the country’s electricity in 2016, and in Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, and North Dakota, supplied more than 20%, according to new figures from the American Wind Energy Association. Wind turbines operating in 40 US states generated a record total of 226 million megawatt-hours (MWh) during 2016. This is up 18% over 2015’s figures, but in terms of the percentage of electricity supplied nationwide, represented only a 4.7% increase over 2015. link The country’s wind energy capacity has tripled since 2008, reaching 88,973MW by the end of 2017, contributing 6.3% of the nation’s energy supply in 2017. link  (Photo: IKEA wind farm in Texas – credit: IKEA)

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USA – solar

Solar produced just 0.6% of US electricity in 2015, compared to 4.7% for wind and 33% each for coal and natural gas. But capacity is growing exponentially. Three years ago, the US had 10GW of solar PV in total. In 2016, it is forecast to install 14.1GW. The boom was driven by growth in utility scale solar – 77% of new capacity was in the form of solar farms rather than household panels. link  In 2016, Solar installed 39% of all new electric generating capacity, topping all other technologies for the first time. Solar’s increasing competitiveness against other technologies has allowed it to quickly increase its share of total U.S. electrical generation- from just 0.1% in 2010 to 1.4% today. By 2020 solar should surpass 3% of total generation and is expected to hit 5% by 2022. link    

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USA – geothermal

The geothermal power industry in the USA reached about 3,442MW at the end of 2013. In total the U.S. industry added about 85MW of new capacity additions in 2013. link The United States generates more geothermal electricity than any other country, but it accounts for less than 0.5% of all electricity produced in United States. Most of the geothermal reservoirs in the United States are located in the western States and Hawaii. California generates the most electricity from geothermal energy.

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USA – nuclear

April 2018: According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. has 61 commercially operating nuclear power stations with 99 nuclear reactors in 30 states. Together, they account for about 20% of the electricity produced in the U.S., per the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. link  Despite a near halt in new construction of more than 30 years, US reliance on nuclear power has grown. In 1980, nuclear plants accounted for 11% of the country’s electricity generation. In 2008, that output had risen to nearly 20% of electricity, providing more than 30% of the electricity generated from nuclear power worldwide. [The 104 nuclear reactors currently operating in the United States use between 25,000 and 27,500 tons of uranium oxide per year.] 

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USA – carbon capture

U.S. utilities balk at expanded carbon-capture subsidy. (August 2018) A Reuters survey of the top 10 U.S. power companies showed eight have no plans to purchase and install carbon capture and storage (CCS) equipment, citing high costs and uncertain demand, while the other two declined to comment. Another three utilities that are well-placed to adopt the technology – because of their proximity to existing carbon pipelines and coal reserves – also said they have no plans to tap the newly enriched subsidy. link

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USA – fracking

As 2017 begins, the US is still the only nation that is undertaking fracking on a large scale. When ascribing equal importance to the environmental, economic and social impacts of shale gas extraction, fracking ranked seventh out of nine electricity options. link  According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration: 67% percent of natural gas produced in the U.S. came from fractured wells in 2015. Coal consumption in the U.S. emitted about 1.5 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2015 while at the same time natural gas use emitted 1.48 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent. For the first time last year, natural gas contributed about the same level of greenhouse gas emissions as coal, the globe’s largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change. link

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USA – coal

In 2010, 44.9% of power generation in the USA was coal-based. Between 2010 and 2022, 48 gigawatts of coal will have been retired at 231 plants: that’s 14.1% of the total 339,000 megawatts of coal-fired power generation in 2010. All except 6 plants are more than 30 years old; the majority of plants are older than 50 years. link  By early 2012 that number had declined to 36%in the first quarter of 2012. link  (The figure for 2016 was down to 30.4% – link)
Coverage of coal in USA at  

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USA – editorial: Lessons from 4 EV hotspots

– By Mary Catherine O’Connor

This is linked to an exhibition in Michigan scheduled for December 2012More details here

How does the US transition to adoption of electric vehicles? In his State of the Union speech in January 2011, President Obama said the United States would be the first to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. (There are currently around 250 million vehicles on U.S. roads today.) With public concern about so-called range anxiety and the higher initial cost of these vehicles, such a target appears unlikely right now. Just as some states and cities are preparing infrastructure for recharging stations, it may well need deliberate policies by environmentally-conscious local governments to signal progress.

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