THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ENERGY USE AND A CARBON FOOTPRINT
In the United States, most of the emissions of human-caused (anthropogeni) greenhouse gases (GHG) come primarily from burning fossil fuels—coal, natural gas, and petroleum—for energy use. The amount of energy each of us uses, and the resulting release of greenhouse gases, is referred to as our carbon footprint.
In 2019, fossil fuel combustion for energy accounted for 74% of total U.S. GHG emissions. Fossil fuels consist mainly of carbon and hydrogen. When fossil fuels are combusted (burned), oxygen combines with carbon to form CO2 and with hydrogen to form water (H2O). These reactions release heat, which we use for energy. The amount of CO2 produced (emitted) depends on the carbon content of the fuel, and the amount of heat produced depends on the carbon and hydrogen content. Because natural gas, which is mostly CH4, has a high hydrogen content, combustion of natural gas produces less CO2 for the same amount of heat produced from burning other fossil fuels. For example, for the same amount of energy produced, burning natural gas produces about half of the amount of CO2 produced by burning coal.
Consumption of fossil fuels accounts for most of the CO2 emissions of the major energy consuming sectors: commercial, industrial, residential, transportation and electric power. Although the industrial sector was the largest energy consuming sector in 2020, the transportation sector emitted more CO2 because of its near complete dependence on petroleum fuels.
And there is good news in regards to the energy agricultural industry – specifically pig farmers. Did you know that in the past 50 years pig farmers:
- Used 75.9% less land
- Used 25.1% less water
- Maintained a 7.7% reduction in their carbon footprint
- Generally used 7.0% less energy per pound of pork produced