FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 31, 2011
EIA reports a record-setting 5.8-percent decline in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2009
Total U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were 6,576 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) in 2009, a decrease of 5.8 percent from the 2008 level, according to Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States 2009, a report released today by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Since 1990, U.S. GHG emissions have grown at an average annual rate of 0.4 percent. This is the largest percentage decline in total U.S. GHG emissions since 1990, the starting year for EIA's data on total GHG emissions.
"The large decline in emissions in 2009 was driven by the economic downturn, combined with an ongoing trend toward a less energy-intensive economy and a decrease in the carbon-intensity of the energy supply," said EIA Administrator Richard Newell.
Total estimated U.S. GHG emissions in 2009 consisted of 5,446.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (82.8 percent of total emissions); 730.9 MMTCO2e of methane (11.1 percent of total emissions); 219.6 MMTCO2e of nitrous oxide (3.3 percent of total emissions); and 178.2 MMTCO2e of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) (2.7 percent of total emissions).
Emissions of energy-related carbon dioxide decreased by 7.1 percent in 2009, having risen at an average annual rate of 0.8 percent per year from 1990 to 2008. Among the factors that influenced the emissions decrease was a decline in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 2.6 percent. The energy intensity of the U.S. economy, measured as energy consumed per dollar of GDP (Energy/GDP), fell by 2.2 percent in 2009. Year-to-year declines in energy intensity are relatively common. There was also a decline in the carbon dioxide intensity of U.S. energy supply (CO2 per unit of energy) in 2009, caused primarily by a drop in the price of natural gas relative to coal that led to more natural gas consumed for the generation of electricity. Also contributing was an increase in renewable energy consumption, led by wind and hydropower.
Methane emissions increased by 0.9 percent, while nitrous oxide emissions fell by 1.7 percent in 2009. Based on partial data constituting about 77 percent of the category, combined emissions of HFCs, PFCs and SF6 increased by 4.9 percent.
The full report Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States 2009 can be found on EIA's web site at:
[yes- the headline is facetious]
For some reason, people aren't worrying much about global warming these days--even though, as we write, it's 40 degrees out in New York City, far warmer than it was just two or three months ago. Gallup finds that only 51% of Americans worry about global warming even a "fair amount," making it the lowest-priority environmental issue. That is to say, the lowest of the low, as a January Gallup poll found "the environment" the subject that fewest voters--less than a quarter--rated "extremely important."
London's Guardian reports that in the United Kingdom, "greenhouse gas emissions rose by nearly 3% last year, according to government statistics released on Thursday." The story is accompanied by a photo of a snow-covered street with the caption: "Last year's rise in carbon emissions was due to an increase in gas used to heat homes driven by the cold weather."
For some reason, the story doesn't mention the connection between cold weather and the increase in greenhouse gases. We suppose the Guardian doesn't want to alarm its readers. After all, if emissions are rising because of cold weather, that's an act of God, there's not much anyone can do to save the planet.
This strikes us as overly fatalistic. For one thing, we're all going to die anyway, and we lose nothing by facing up to the inconvenient truth. What's more, you never know. With some good old-fashioned Yankee ingenuity, maybe man can come up with a way of making the weather warmer so as to avoid the threat of greenhouse gases.