America’s love for flying is negating the benefits of phasing out coal

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The numbers are in, and it’s not all good news.

In 2017, despite president Donald Trump’s best efforts, the US burned less coal than the year before. As a result, the country avoided producing 23.3 million metric tons of carbon emissions that it would have put into the atmosphere had it burned the same amount of coal as in 2016, according to a new analysis by the consultancy Rhodium Group.

The bad news, however, is the benefits of phasing out coal were partly counteracted by America’s growing love for flying. The country’s emissions from burning jet fuel increased 9.2 million metric tons from 2016 to 2017, offsetting about 40% of the gains from the decline of coal.

There is some other good news: Americans consumed less gasoline in 2017 than in the year before, avoiding 3.7 million metric tons of carbon emissions. At the same time, however, there is some more bad news: due to demand from the trucking industry, diesel fuel use grew, leading to an increase of 7.9 million metric tons of diesel-related carbon emissions than in 2016.

The Rhodium Group’s report concludes that although, overall, the US is cutting emissions, it’s not doing it fast enough to help the world hit climate goals. And, in fact, since Trump was elected, the rate of emissions decline in the US is slowing down.