The state of emissions in Pa. | The Numbers Racket

As of 2018, Pennsylvania ranked fourth in the nation for carbon dioxide emissions, which totaled 221.6 million metric tons, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration

By: - April 18, 2022 6:30 am

The Homer City Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant in Indiana County, is one the plants locals are concerned could shutter under RGGI, a proposed cap-and-trade program to limit carbon emissions. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

In 2019, Pennsylvania set its first ever statewide goal to curb its greenhouse gas emissions. 

Pennsylvania’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.

In its 278-page 2021 Pennsylvania Climate Change Action Plan, the Department of Environmental Protection noted that as of 2017, the most recent year for which data were  available at the time of the report, Pennsylvania has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 19.2 percent – 6.8 percent away from its 2025 goal. 

‘The goal is to act now’: state officials detail Pa.’s 2021 Climate Action Plan

Now, let’s take a closer look at where emission levels are in the Keystone State. 

Emissions 

As of 2018, Pennsylvania ranked fourth in the nation for carbon dioxide emissions, which totaled 221.6 million metric tons, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  

Similarly, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DEP report that 269.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (a unit of measure which converts greenhouse gas emissions into the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emissions based on their global warming potential). 

Pennsylvania’s forestry and land use sector sequestered 27.98 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents during the same year, DEP reported. Due to the sequestration, Pennsylvania’s total greenhouse gas emissions for 2018 was 241.12 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. 

As of 2018, carbon dioxide made up 85 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Pennsylvania, followed by methane (11 percent), according to DEP’s 2021 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report. 

Emitters

Approximately 82 percent of Pennsylvania’s gross greenhouse gas emissions come from just three industry sectors, according to the same report. 

As of 2018, the three highest greenhouse gas producing sectors were: 

  1. Industrial sector, 32 percent.
  2. Electricity production, 25 percent
  3. Transportation, 25 percent

As of 2018, EIA data shows that the majority – 94.8 percent – of Pennsylvania’s electricity generation is fueled by three energy sources: 

  • Nuclear, 38.8 percent
  • Natural gas, 35.5 percent
  • Coal, 20.5 percent

During the same year, coal and natural gas energy sources in the electricity sector contributed 99.2 percent of the sector’s total greenhouse gas emissions. 

Coal contributed 58.7 percent to greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector. 

Natural gas contributed 40.5 percent to greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector. Oil contributed 0.8 percent to greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector. Nuclear energy does not produce greenhouse gas emissions. 

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.

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