Over several blogs we have looked at Greenhouse Gases. It is rather theoretical unless we can look at Greenhouse Gases in our own backyard. So, let’s look at North Carolina.  The state issued a report in 2019 about its GHG profile.

Here’s how the report describes the state’s emissions: Carbon dioxide was the major GHG emitted. Methane (CH4) is in a minority but recall from our blogs that it is 25 times as potent a GHG as carbon dioxide.

The following items track the report.

North Carolina’s Gross and Net Emissions

  • North Carolina reduced gross GHG emissions by 19% and net GHG emissions by 24% since 2005.
  • During this same time period, North Carolina’s population and real Gross State Product (GSP) grew by 18%.
  • By 2025, net GHG emissions are projected to decrease by 31% from the 2005 baseline, indicating North Carolina is forecast to achieve the U.S 2025 reduction target of 26% to 28%.

GHG Compounds

  • Carbon dioxide emissions currently account for approximately 82% of total GHG emissions.
  • The primary source of CO2 emissions is fossil fuel combustion.
  • GHG emissions from fossil fuel combustion have decreased by 26% since 2005. This is due to both a shift in fuel use, from coal to natural gas, and increased energy efficiency.
  • Methane (CH4) emissions currently account for approximately 11% of total GHG emissions
  • The primary sources of CH4 are Waste Management and Agriculture.
  • Emissions from Waste Management and Agriculture have not changed significantly since 2005, even with a growing population and economy.

Electricity Sector

  • Electricity Generation is the largest emissions sector and represents 35% of all GHG emissions.
  • GHG emissions from Electricity Generation have decreased by 34% since 2005.
  • North Carolina’s Electricity Generation sector has undergone a transformation since 2009 including:
  • retirement of over 3,000 megawatts (MW) of coal fired power plants, which is 25% of the NC coal fleet.
  • increased use of efficient natural gas combined cycle plants
  • Solar, hydroelectric and wind power now represent 9% of North Carolina’s Electricity Generation.

Transportation

  • Transportation is the second largest emissions sector and represents about 32% of all GHG emissions.
  • Emissions from the Transportation sector have decreased by 12% from 2005 to 2017.
  • Gasoline represents 72% of the energy input into Transportation while diesel represents 21%.

Residential Commercial and Industrial

  • Residential, Commercial and Industrial emissions represent 19% of all GHG emissions.
  • Residential sector emissions from total energy use have decreased by 22% since 2005, while North Carolina’s population grew by 18% over that time.
  • GHG emissions from fuel combustion in the Commercial sector have increased by 13% due to shifts in the economy. This is offset by a 29% decrease in emissions from electricity used by this sector.
  • Industrial fuel combustion emissions have decreased by 30% since 2005.
  • GHG emissions from Industrial Processes have doubled since 2005.

Land use, Land Use Changes and Forestry

  • Forests, natural lands, and agricultural lands sequestered an estimated 34 MMT (million metric tons) of CO2 or 25% of gross GHG emissions estimated in 2017. (Here’s a look at what MMT is)
  • These carbon sinks are primarily due to increases in forest stocks and storage of carbon in wood products, reflecting North Carolina’s increasing sustainable management of its forests and their economic uses.

Landfills

  • Many large landfills in North Carolina are now collecting CH4 and using the captured biogas as energy, resulting in 561,000 MWh of Electricity Generation and an additional 149,000 million British thermal units (MMBtu) of heat input in 2017.
  • There has been a reduction in GHG emissions from this sector since 2005, despite a large growth in population. This is primarily due to the energy recovery from landfill gas.

A report like this is good as a point-in-time assessment of GHG. The report provides a place for reference to measure progress. We assume that the figures are correct, though as we have seen in reading various news reports and studies, people have opinions about what is correct.

An overall conclusion remains, however. GHG’s need to be curbed.