U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions Declined in 2008

May 21, 2009

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) today reported the largest annual decline in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions since it has begun reporting greenhouse gas emissions annually. According to the EIA report, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel in the United States has dropped from 5,967 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2007 to 5,802 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2008. This is a 2.8 percent decrease.

Further data from EIA shows that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 1.1 percent in 2008 despite the end-of-the-year economic downturn, while energy demand, largely in part due to record-high oil prices, decreased by 2.2 percent, indicating that energy intensity (energy use per unit of GDP) fell by 3.3 percent in 2008 and carbon dioxide intensity fell by 3.8 percent. Since 1990, the carbon dioxide intensity of the economy has fallen by 29.3 percent or 1.9 percent per year. High oil prices have also led to a 6-percent decrease in oil-related emissions, accounting for a large portion of the overall reduction in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

Despite the progress made by the 2.8-percent decrease in 2008, the total U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 15.9 percent since 1990. These emissions account for over 80 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Additional data from EIA also showed that transportation-related emissions, which account for approximately one-third of total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, decreased by 5.2 percent in 2008; the only other year to experience a decline in transportation emissions was 2001. Industrial carbon dioxide emissions also decreased in the last year, falling by 3.2 percent and continuing the trend of falling industrial sector emissions since 2004; however, emissions in the commercial sector increased by 0.5 percent in 2008. Electric power sector emissions, which are the largest source of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions and account for 41 percent of total emissions, did decrease by about 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, or about 2.1 percent. An increase in wind-powered generation is reflected in the overall decrease in the emissions intensity of generation in 2008.

As more complete energy data becomes available, EIA will continue to refine its estimates of carbon dioxide emissions from 2008. An updated energy data report and further analysis will be issued in late 2009, along with the full inventory of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2008.

For more information on the preliminary estimates, please visit www.eia.doe.gov/.

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