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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

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: U.S. ahead of pace on vaccines.
  2. Health: Lessons for trapping the next pandemic.
  3. Tech: "Fludemic" model accurately maps COVID hotspotsVirtual doctor's visits and digital health tools take off.
  4. Politics: Harris breaks tie as Senate proceeds with lengthy debate on COVID relief bill — Republican governor of West Virginia says there's no plan to lift mask mandate.
  5. World: Canada vaccine panel recommends 4 months between doses — In AstraZeneca spat, EU fights hard for a vaccine its hardly using.
Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

In AstraZeneca spat, EU fights hard for a vaccine it's hardly using

Macron, Merkel and European Council President Charles Michel (R) at a summit in October. Photo: Yves Herman/Pool/AFP via Getty

Italy on Thursday blocked the export of 250,000 AstraZeneca doses to Australia, becoming the first EU country to exercise an export ban due to a vaccine shortfall in the bloc.

Why it matters: The controversial step exposes multiple major challenges to distributing vaccines — even among the world’s richest countries.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Global freedom continues steady decline: report

The global erosion of democracy has continued for a 15th consecutive year, according to an annual report from Freedom House.

Zoom in: The report calls particular attention to India, which slipped from “free” to “partly free” due to the government's “scapegoating of Muslims” and “crackdown on critics.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi is, according to the report, “driving India itself toward authoritarianism.”