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KUNC is among the founding partners of the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration of public media stations that serve the Rocky Mountain states of Colorado Idaho, Utah and Wyoming.

Coal Is Down, But Emissions Are Up

A natural gas drilling rig on the Pinedale Anticline, just west of Wyoming's Wind River Range.
A natural gas drilling rig on the Pinedale Anticline, just west of Wyoming's Wind River Range.

A new  study shows US greenhouse gas emissions are going up. The natural gas boom is partially to blame. It’s a big industry in our region.

The 3.4% rise last year is the second biggest emissions jump in more than two decades. That’s according to the  study done by the independent economic analyst company, Rhodium Group. 

The study says a near-record number of  coal plants retired in 2018 but US power consumption increased, mainly due to an uptick in the economy. And the lost coal power was replaced by an even greater amount of natural gas production in the West and other parts of the country.

Daniel Kaffine, an energy economist at CU Boulder, said “with the advent of fracking and horizontal drilling, we’re also a larger producer of fossil fuels than we were in the past.”

And even as the government is shut down and the  is closed, the  Bureau of Land Management is  still accepting new oil and gas drilling applications.

But the study also points to increased emissions from industry and buildings.

“Those are two sectors that have sort of been ignored or forgotten a little bit in terms of climate policy,” said Kaffine.

The report said quote “the US was already off track in meeting its  Paris Agreement targets. The gap is even wider now headed into 2019.”

Efforts to get a comment for this story from the Environmental Protection Agency were unsuccessful due to the government shutdown.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2020 91.5 KRCC. To see more, visit .

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