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Visualizing the Flow of Energy-Related CO2 Emissions in the U.S.

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Visualizing the Flow of Energy-Related CO2 Emissions in the U.S.

Visualizing the Flow of Energy-Related CO2 Emissions in the U.S.

This was originally posted on the Decarbonization Channel. Subscribe to the free mailing list to be the first to see graphics related to decarbonization with a focus on the U.S. energy sector.

In 2021, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from the generation and consumption of energy reached 4.9 billion tonnes.

To better understand how various energy sources and their end-uses contribute to carbon emissions, this graphic visualizes the flow of energy-related CO2 emissions in the U.S. using carbon flow charts by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

What are Energy-Related CO2 Emissions?

Energy-related CO2 emissions refer to the release of carbon dioxide as a result of the combustion of fuels to produce energy. They arise through the direct use of fossil fuels for transport, heating, or industrial needs, as well as the use of fossil fuels for electricity generation.

To provide some context, non-energy-related CO2 emissions are those that result from industrial chemical reactions, deforestation, and agricultural activities.

As the largest contributor to carbon emissions, however, energy-related CO2 emissions account for approximately 85% of all emissions in the U.S. which we will now explore in more detail.

U.S. Energy-Related CO2 Emissions in 2021

Followed by a pandemic-driven decline in 2020, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. increased by 325 million tonnes in 2021, marking the largest-ever annual increase.

Energy SourceCO2 emissions in million tonnes, 2021% of total energy-related emissions
Petroleum2,22345.7%
Natural Gas1,63733.7%
Coal1,00320.6%
Solar, Wind, Nuclear, Hydro, and Biomass00%
Total4,863100%

When we follow the CO2 emissions from the above fossil fuels to their end uses, transportation and electricity generation stand out as the biggest contributors.

In 2021, these two sectors accounted for more than 68% of all energy-related emissions in the country, roughly emitting 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2.

End-Uses CO2 emissions in million tonnes, 2021% of total energy-related emissions
Transportation1,80137.0%
Electricity Generation1,53731.6%
Industrial Uses96519.8%
Residential Uses3216.6%
Commercial Uses2394.9%
Total4,863100%

When it comes to transportation, petroleum accounted for 97% of emissions, largely due to motor gasoline and diesel consumption. On the other hand, coal and natural gas made up 99% of CO2 emissions related to electricity generation.

Due to its high carbon intensity, coal’s contribution to power sector emissions may also be of particular interest. As the share of coal rose from 20% to 23% in the U.S. electricity mix in 2021, electricity emissions from coal also increased for the first time since 2014.

Naturally, this shift raised the overall energy-related CO2 emissions in 2021. It also caused a 4% hike in the carbon intensity of the country’s electricity.

Lowering Emissions

To avoid the impacts of climate change, many countries and companies are working towards decarbonization across all sectors, which can largely be facilitated by reductions in energy-related carbon emissions.

Accounting for nearly 70% of all energy-related CO2 emissions, transportation and utilities can be important pillars in these efforts.

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United States

Wildfire Area Burned by U.S. State in 2023

Just five states account for nearly half of all wildfire area burned in 2023.

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A chart with the total area burned by wildfires in 2023, by state, based on figures from the National Interagency Coordination Center.

Charted: Wildfire Area Burned by U.S. State in 2023

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Wildfires have become a summer specter in North America, looming on the horizon as parts of the country warm and dry out.

We chart the total wildfire area burned in 2023 in the U.S., categorized by state, based on figures from the National Interagency Coordination Center.

Which U.S. States Saw the Most Area Burned by Wildfires?

Wildfires in California and Alaska together account for one-fourth of all land burned in the U.S. in 2023. Both states saw wildfire damage to more than 300,000 acres.

Zooming out, nearly half of the 2.7 million acres affected by wildfires in 2023 were concentrated in only five states.

RankStateAcres Burned (2023)% Of 2023
Acres Burned
1California332,72212%
2Alaska314,27612%
3New Mexico212,3788%
4Texas210,2648%
5Oregon202,0357%
6Arizona188,4837%
7Nebraska180,7337%
8Oklahoma162,4896%
9Washington151,3166%
10Montana123,1335%
11Florida99,6424%
12Idaho87,8013%
13North Carolina73,9533%
14Mississippi52,5082%
15West Virginia45,6792%
16Colorado41,9172%
17Louisiana22,1031%
18Alabama18,3351%
19Utah18,1091%
20New Jersey18,0331%
21Kansas17,9631%
22Tennessee15,3941%
23Virginia12,0850%
24Hawaii12,0590%
25Georgia10,3300%
26Pennsylvania9,6280%
27Missouri9,4990%
28Minnesota9,4160%
29Wyoming7,9340%
30Arkansas5,6590%
31Wisconsin4,8830%
32Maryland4,4860%
33Michigan4,2870%
34North Dakota4,1830%
35Ohio2,4690%
36Massachusetts1,4680%
37New York1,3830%
38Nevada1,3000%
39South Dakota9450%
40South Carolina5910%
41Rhode Island5820%
42Indiana5210%
43Maine3250%
44Connecticut2970%
45Illinois1110%
46Kentucky700%
47Vermont620%
48New Hampshire580%
49Iowa60%
50Delaware00%
N/ATotal2,693,910N/A

Note: Figures rounded in the chart.

Due to hot, dry summers, Western states in particular see more wildfires. The New York Times notes that the American West has a Mediterranean climate where precipitation is concentrated around winter months. Thus the region’s hottest and driest months coincide.

As the summer heats up, the vegetation—pine needles, shrubs, grass—turns into fuel, ripe for a spreading wildfire.

Seasonal dry winds from the Great Basin Area into Southern California dry out vegetation, fan wildfires, knock down power lines (causing sparks), and spread burning embers.

Finally, climate change is leading to longer, hotter, and drier summers increasing the intensity of wildfires. Nine of the state’s 10 largest fires have occurred since 2010. The last one burned more than a million acres in 2020.

2023: The Lowest Wildfire Burn Total Since 1998

As it happens, 2023 was a record year in the country—the lowest area burned since 1998, thanks to an unusually wet Californian summer.

However, wildfire destruction was still potent, especially with the devastating Maui wildfire, which burned down the historic town of Lahaina, killing 100 people.

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