DEC publishes new Alaska GHG inventory
Report says that most carbon dioxide emissions come from industrial sector, including oil and gas, followed by transportation
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has published an updated version of its inventory of greenhouse gas emissions in Alaska. The emissions data cover the years 1990 to 2015. The primary gas considered is carbon dioxide, emitted from the burning of fossil fuels. However, other gases inventoried included methane and various fluorocarbons. The report also considers the net effect of emissions from wildfires and the absorption of carbon in carbon sinks such as forests. The inventory does not consider emissions from thawing permafrost.
As reported in previous versions of the inventory, the industrial sector, in particular the oil and gas industry, creates the highest level of greenhouse gas emissions in the state. This is followed in descending order by the transportation; residential and commercial; and electrical generation sectors.
“Seeing the oil and gas industry leading other Alaska industries in the amount of greenhouse gases emitted is not unexpected. Oil and gas development on the North Slope is the largest industrial complex in Alaska,” commented DEC Commissioner Larry Hartig, adding that the oil industry uses natural gas, a relatively low carbon fuel, as its primary source of energy.
Carbon emissions from the transportation industry reflect the burning of jet fuel sold in Alaska for use by the large numbers of jet aircraft flying in and out of the state, Hartig said.
Ranking in U.S.Given the small population of Alaska, the per capita level of greenhouse gas emissions ranks fourth among the U.S. states. However, Alaska ranks 40th among the states in terms of total emissions - Alaska emissions only account for 0.63 percent of total U.S. emissions, and 0.09 percent of emissions worldwide.
Having remained stable between 1995 and 2003, emissions peaked in 2005 and have been irregularly descending since then. The net effect has been an overall drop in emissions of about 8 percent between 1990 and 2015. Possible causes of the decline include facility upgrades, operational changes at facilities, economic downturns and the impacts of federal regulatory requirements, DEC suggests.
The Alaska trend for total greenhouse gas emissions matches a broadly similar trend for the entire U.S. over the same time period, although a graph presented with the inventory report suggests that Alaska emissions declined at a slightly higher rate than those for the nation as a whole immediately after 2005.
Climate change focusIn publishing the inventory report, DEC commented that lowering greenhouse gas emissions is a focus of international efforts to address climate change through initiatives such as the 2015 Paris climate change agreement. In October 2017 Gov. Bill Walker issued administrative order 289, with an objective of addressing climate change in the state, including the identification of opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Knowing the sources of the emissions is key to figuring out how to reduce emissions, DEC said.