U.S. Carbon Levels Fall to 1970s Levels

The U.S. will reduce carbon-dioxide emissions in 2040 to levels last seen in the 1970s as the use of natural gas and renewables increases and efficiency measures cut demand, Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) said.

Energy-related emissions will fall 25 percent in part because of a “pronounced shift away from coal in favor of less- carbon-intensive fuels such as natural gas,” the Irving, Texas- based company said in a U.S. energy outlook report today. U.S. coal consumption will plummet more than 65 percent by 2040 and a 5 percent reduction in energy demand will also help cut emissions, according to the report.

“Based on what they’re assuming about energy consumption, that makes sense -- we’ve already seen some of these trends happening,” Ethan Zindler, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst based in Washington, said yesterday in an interview. Exxon’s figures indicate the U.S. may still fall short of President Barack Obama’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, Zindler said.

Emissions from fossil fuels fell an estimated 3.9 percent in the U.S. last year, according to government data, as expanded gas production led to a 10-year low in prices. The Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement setting emissions targets, calls for member nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent below 1990 levels from 2013 to 2020.

The U.S. hasn’t ratified the Kyoto Protocol and Exxon’s figures show carbon-dioxide emissions would rise to 5 billion tons in 2025 from 4.9 billion in 1990. By 2040, the U.S. would emit 4 billion tons under Exxon’s projections. Global energy- related carbon-dioxide emissions are expected to plateau around 2030, Exxon said.

The Energy Information Administration projects a 1.9 percent increase this year in energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions and a 0.7 percent rise in 2014. By 2040, it forecasts a decline of 5.1 percent from 2005 levels.

Exxon sees U.S. gas consumption increasing more than 25 percent and nuclear power use expanding as “wind, solar and biofuels also grow sharply.” Renewables will generate about 7 percent of the nation’s power by 2040, the company said.

“Oil will remain the country’s most popular fuel, but oil demand is expected to fall as American vehicles become more fuel efficient,” according to the report.