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Carnegie Mellon University just published an updated look at carbon emissions trends and data for the U.S. power sector that includes fourth-quarter and full-year 2017 information.

Expand chart
Data: Carnegie Mellon University Power Sector Carbon Index; Chart: Axios Visuals

Why it matters: It gauges progress in wringing heat-trapping gases from what was, until recently, the largest source of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions (but has now fallen behind transportation).

The big picture: Carnegie Mellon's Costa Samaras tells Axios that total power-sector CO2 emissions last year fell to their lowest level since 1988, and that 2017 joined 2016 as the first two years that more total power came from gas than coal.

What the new data shows:

  • "Total annual rolling CO2 emissions were 1,770 million metric tonnes, which was 27% lower than in 2005," a summary notes.
  • The measure of emissions intensity — that is, pollution per unit of energy output — shows that emissions in Q4 were 952 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour, which is 4% below Q4 of 2016 and 28% below 2005 levels.
  • Total power generation was up 2% in Q4 compared with a year earlier, though coal-fired output was down 6%.
  • A few more comparisons of Q4 2017 to the same stretch in 2016: Natural gas was up 4%, wind generation rose by 13% and solar went up by 30%.
  • To be sure: The renewables are growing from a small base. Wind and solar combined were 9% of U.S. generation in Q4.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.