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Monday numbers – A closer look at North Carolina’s greenhouse gas emissions

[1]This is how a decision made at the top reaches of the US government trickles down: The Trump administration’s proposal to roll back vehicle pollution standards [2] could hamper North Carolina’s ability to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.

Transportation accounts for 31 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, ranking second only to electricity generation, according to the state’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory.  [3]The NC Department of Environmental Quality recently published the 74-page report, required under Gov. Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 80. EO 80 establishes benchmarks and directs state agencies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2025 — from the 2005 baseline.

The report generally shows positive strides in reducing the state’s carbon footprint. Transportation emissions have decreased 12 percent since 2005, even as the total number of vehicle miles traveled increased – a likely result of fuel efficiency. But Trump’s plan to allow dirtier cars on the road, coupled with the state’s continued emphasis on road-building and -widening – there are 15-plus NCDOT projects underway, with more in the hopper — could potentially restrain the state’s contributions to curbing the effects of climate change.

Percentage of GHG emissions generated by electricity sector – 35%
By transportation – 32%
Percent decrease in diesel use since 1990* – 6%
Percent increase in gasoline use over the same time – 3%
Increase in ethanol use – 1,609%

NC reduction in gross GHG emissions 2005-2017 –19%
In net GHG emissions 2005-2017 – 24%
NC population increase during same time period – 18%
NC’s gross GHG emissions, as a proportion of US – 2.3%
Projected net emissions reductions from the 2005 baseline, by 2025 – 31%

Total GHG emissions from carbon dioxide – 82%
From methane – 11%
Increase in CO2 emissions from natural gas, 2005-2016 – 122%
Decrease in CO2 emissions from coal – 53%
Percentage of energy generated by solar, 2005 – less than 1%
In 2017 – 4%
By wind, 2005 – 0
In 2017 – less than 1%

Amount of GHG emissions stored by forests and natural and agricultural lands – 25%
Estimated pounds of CO2 absorbed by mature trees (40 years old), per year – 48
Pounds per young tree – 26
Estimated acres of young trees growing in NC – 844,580

Source: NC Greenhouse Gas Inventory
*The inventory measures fuel use not as gallons, but as heat input in British Thermal Units (BTUs), for data consistency