United States fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions and the COVID-19 pandemic: the implications of near-real-time fuel consumption data

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Kevin Robert Gurney, Bhaskar Mitra, Geoffrey Roest, pawlok dass, Yang Song, Taha Moiz


The COVID-19 pandemic has altered energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally and continues to evolve in the U.S. as the politics of COVID-19 change. Here we report on a new near-real-time fuel consumption data-driven, week-resolved estimate of national U.S. fossil fuel carbon dioxide (FFCO2) emissions and its covariation with COVID-19 lockdown orders. We find that the weekly total U.S. FFCO2 reached a maximum departure of -19.4% (-18.1%/-21.6%) during the week ending April 3, 2020, consistent with the initiation of state-scale COVID-19 lockdown orders. The total FFCO2 emissions decline for the sum of April and May, the two-month period with the largest persistent decline, was -15.7% (-14.2%/-17.7%), led by gasoline-fueled transportation (-29.4%), followed by electricity generation (-15.1%), aviation (-60.3%), and industrial activity (-8.5%). Since reaching its nadir in early April, U.S. total FFCO2 emissions have risen almost to pre-COVID levels. However, gasoline and jet fuel consumption remain -7.9% and -23.4% below long-term weekly values, respectively, for the first four weeks of 2021. The annual 2020 decline found here using fuel consumption data is more than 3 times the decline found for the U.S. in a recent study using indirect proxy data. These results suggest that the use of indirect proxy data for estimating near-real-time GHG emissions may not be an accurate approach where it can be avoided.




Social and Behavioral Sciences


climate change, COVID impacts, CO2 emissions, emissions mitigation, greenhouse gases


Published: 2021-04-20 05:36


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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