By Andrew Childers and Ari Natter
21 -- U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption and production
declined 3.8 percent in 2012, reaching their lowest level since 1994, the Energy
Information Administration said in a report released Oct. 21.
Annual carbon dioxide
emissions associated with the energy sector totaled 5,290 million metric tons in
2012, a decrease from 5,498 million metric tons in 2011, and a 12 percent
decrease from a peak of 6,023 million metric tons in 2007, according to the
The decline came even as the U.S. economy grew by 2.8 percent in
2012, the EIA said in its report “U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions,
2012.” That was the largest emissions decline recorded in a year with positive
population growth as well, the agency said.
Reduced energy demand in 2012
meant the overall carbon intensity of the economy, expressed in carbon dioxide
emissions per unit of gross domestic product, declined 6.5 percent that year,
the EIA said. That is the largest annual drop observed since the agency began
keeping records in 1949. Only 1952 and 1981 have recorded drops in the economy's
carbon intensity greater than 5 percent, the agency said.
Half the overall decline in energy demand
came from the residential sector, the report said. A mild first quarter in 2012
reduced the demand for home heating. By the end of March, cumulative heating
degree days were approximately 19 percent below the 10-year norm and 22 percent
below 2011 levels. Residential demand for electricity declined overall in 2012
even though cooling degree days were up slightly from 2011 levels, the report
The transportation sector accounted for 22 percent of the reduction
in energy demand in 2012, trailing only the residential sector, the EIA said.
Vehicles traveled approximately 8,072 million miles per day in both 2011 and
2012, but more fuel-efficient vehicles helped bring down the energy demand in
Cheaper natural gas also displaced coal in the power sector,
bringing down carbon dioxide emissions, the EIA said. That meant carbon dioxide
emissions from electricity generation declined by 3.5 percent in 2012 despite a
decline in renewable energy generation, the agency said. The carbon intensity of
electricity production declined by 13 percent between 2007 and 2012, preventing
emissions of 314 million tons of carbon dioxide during that period, according to
The shift from coal to natural gas is responsible for nearly
60 percent of the reductions, the report said. The remainder is due to increases
in renewable and nuclear power generation, it said.
However, the EIA said
in its 2013-2014 U.S. winter fuels outlook energy-related carbon dioxide
emissions are projected to increase 1.7 percent in 2013 and 0.9 percent in 2014
as rising natural gas prices drive an increase in coal generation .
According to the EIA, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have declined
in five out of the last seven years.
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