Fact Base

The Impact of Fossil Fuels in Buildings

A Fact Base

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A tenth of total US carbon emissions come from burning fossil fuels – primarily gas – for heating and cooking in homes and businesses. While most people don’t think twice about using these appliances, the emissions they produce are a threat to climate action and public health. Cities have begun taking steps to eliminate fossil fuels in buildings, but far more must be done to stop the spread of gas infrastructure and eliminate these emissions.

This fact base offers a crash course in direct building emissions, showing where they come from and how they fit into the overall emissions picture in the US. These data and charts also provide an understanding of the utilities and infrastructure that deliver gas, the buildings and appliances that use it, and implications for air quality and human health. By characterizing the scope of the problem, we hope to spur the swift, ambitious action needed to combat it.

Explore some of the data in the online charts below and click the ‘Download’ button above for the full report as both a PDF and PPT.

Learn more about how this problem impacts you:

Direct building emissions have remained relatively flat for years with a peak in 2014
Source: EIA, RMI analysis
With today’s electric grid, building electrification reduces greenhouse gas emissions

Select your state below to see how it compares nationally.

Source: emissionsindex.org; RMI analysis; Mild climate modeled as single family home in Oakland, CA; Cold climate modeled as multifamily residential building in Boston, MA
10 states are responsible for 56% of direct building emissions nationally
Note: excludes methane leakage
Source: EIA
Gas distribution system expenditures have tripled between 2009 and 2017, to $14.9 billion per year

Appliance sales account for another $18 billion annual expenditures:

  • ~4M gas water heaters, totaling $4-5B
  • ~3.4M gas furnaces, totaling $14.5B
Source: American Gas Association
More than 60% of homes use gas or other fossil fuels for heating
Primary heating fuel of US residences, 2015
Primary heating fuel of residences by census division, 2015 

Click a division below to view its data. Click here to view total US data.

Pacific Mountain North Mountain South West South Central EastSouthCentral South Atlantic West North Central East North Central Mid-Atlantic New England