The bipartisan Next Generation Energy Act, signed into law in 2007 by Governor Tim Pawlenty, set statutory goals to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 15% from 2005 levels by 2015, 30% by 2025, and 80% by 2050. Minnesota missed its goal in 2015 and currently is not on track to meet future goals, either. Since 2005, overall GHG emissions overall have declined just 8%.

The positive progress Minnesota has seen so far has been concentrated in the electricity generation sector. Since 2005, all other sectors have seen only modest reductions or emission increases. Industrial, residential, and commercial have all increased by 15% or more and are heading in the wrong direction.

Transportation is Minnesota's largest source of carbon emissions

Traffic backed up on highway.

The transportation sector is currently the largest source of GHG emissions in Minnesota, accounting for about one quarter of the total GHG emissions in the state. GHG emissions from transportation have decreased by about 7% since 2005, but reductions have leveled off since 2016.

Our personal choices have an impact on emissions, especially when it comes to how we move around. Within the transportation sector, more than 70% of emissions come from passenger vehicles, light-duty trucks (includes SUVs), and medium- to heavy-duty trucks.

Renewable energy is making strides

Worker checking solar panels in field.

Electricity generation is the second largest source of GHG emissions. Despite the incremental increase in emissions in recent years, Minnesota continues to see excellent progress in reducing emissions from the electricity sector due to expanded use of renewable energy.

Since 2005, overall emissions from the electricity generation sector have declined 29%. The significant decrease relative to the 2005 baseline is largely due to reductions in the amount of coal burned to generate electricity and the increased use of renewable energy.

More work to do on land management

John Deere tractor in a disked farm field pulling a manure injector.

Agriculture and related practices in Minnesota are responsible for the most in-state emissions of both nitrous oxide and methane, two potent GHGs that have a significantly higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, emissions of nitrous oxide and methane have both increased since 2005. Year to year, both emissions and storage of greenhouse gases from the agriculture and forestry sectors can be highly variable, but since 2005, net emissions from activities on our lands have declined 2%.

Emissions sources in the agriculture and land use sector include:

  • Livestock
  • Animal feedlots
  • Manure
  • Fertilizer
  • Crop cultivation practices
  • Anaerobic decomposition of organic material
  • Related fuel combustion of off-road implements, like tractors and combines

Industrial emissions increased 18%

Oil refinery on Mississippi River in St. Paul Park, Minnesota

Relative to 2005, emissions from the industrial sector increased by about 3.2 million tons CO2-e. Total energy use in the industrial sector peaked in 2014 and has declined slightly since then; however, 2018 emissions remain roughly 18% above the 2005 baseline.

Emissions sources in the industrial sector include:

  • Fuel combustion
  • Taconite processing
  • Petroleum refining
  • Magnesium casting
  • Lead recycling
  • Peat mining
  • Industrial wastewater treatment
  • Manufacturing of steel, glass, insulating foam, and semiconductors

Emissions from homes increasing at an alarming rate

Father and son putting clothes in washing machine.

Relative to 2005, emissions from the residential sector were an alarming 32% above the 2005 baseline.

Emissions sources in the residential sector include:

  • Fuel combustion for heating and in-home appliances, like water heaters or clothes dryers
  • Fertilizer use
  • Home-product use
  • Food additives
  • Refrigerant leakage from air conditioners and refrigerators

Cuts to make in emissions from businesses

Large air control system on roof of a business.

Relative to 2005, emissions from the commercial sector were about 15% above the 2005 baseline. As in the residential sector, this increase was likely driven, at least in part, by building heating and cooling demands caused by a warmer summer and slightly cooler winter than usual in 2018. As with GHG emissions from the residential sector, the trend for commercial emissions is headed in the wrong direction.

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