America used fewer fossil fuels in 2020 than it has in three decades
Americans gobbled up fewer fossil fuels in 2020 than they have in three decades, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). Consumption of petroleum, natural gas, and coal dropped by 9 percent last year compared to 2019, the biggest annual decrease since the EIA started keeping track in 1949.
The COVID-19 pandemic was responsible for much of the fall as people stayed home to curb the spread of the virus and used less gas. In April 2020, oil prices nosedived below zero because there was so little demand. The US transportation sector alone used up 15 percent less energy in 2020 compared to the year before. Higher temperatures last winter also helped to cut energy demand for heating, according to the EIA. As a result, greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels plummeted to a near 40-year low.
That downward trend will have to continue in order to stave off the climate crisis. Upon rejoining the Paris climate agreement, President Joe Biden committed the US to slash its planet-heating pollution in half this decade from near-peak levels it reached in 2005. That’s part of a global effort to keep global warming from surpassing a point that life on Earth would struggle to adapt to, a global average temperature that’s roughly 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.