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Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Fossil Fuel Combustion Doubled in 28 States Since 1960

Increase in CO2 emissions by state, 1960-2001. Click to enlarge.

Twenty-eight states more than doubled their carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels between 1960 and 2001, according to a new analysis of government data by the US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG). Increased combustion of oil to fuel cars and light trucks and coal for electricity drove the steep rise in emissions.

Using data compiled by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the new report, called The Carbon Boom, examines trends in carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel combustion nationally, regionally, and by state between 1960 and 2001, the most recent year for which state-by-state data are available.

The report found that nationwide emissions of carbon dioxide nearly doubled between 1960 and 2001, jumping from 2.9 billion metric tons in 1960 to almost 5.7 billion metric tons in 2001, an increase of 95%.

During the same period, real GDP, adjusted for 2000 dollars, almost quadrupled, increasing from $2.560 trillion to $10.048 trillion. Although the economy is becoming less carbon-intensive over time, absolute emissions are still increasing.

The total US increase from 1990—the baseline year for the Kyoto Protocol— to 2001 was 14%.

Increase in CO2 emissions from oil consumption by state, 1960-2001. Click to enlarge.

Increased oil and coal combustion each accounted for 40% of the rise in US carbon dioxide emissions between 1960 and 2001. Nationwide, emissions from the combustion of petroleum and petroleum products increased 82% from 1.339 billion metric tons in 1960 to 2.441 billion metric tons in 2001, representing 43% of the total CO2 emissions that year.

According to EIA, carbon dioxide emissions from oil combustion in the transportation sector increased by 151% during the 1960-2001 period.

In every other sector, carbon dioxide emissions from oil combustion peaked in the 1970s, as the economy switched from oil to other fuels and as energy efficiency improved. Specifically, carbon dioxide emissions from oil peaked in 1972 in the residential sector; in 1973 in the commercial sector; in 1978 in the electric power sector; and in 1979 in the industrial sector.

In 1960, the transportation sector accounted for a quarter of US energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from all sources; by 2001, the sector contributed nearly one-third (32 percent) of the total.

In 2001, almost all (98 percent) of transportation sector emissions came from the combustion of petroleum products, and about 60 percent of transportation sector emissions resulted from burning gasoline in motor vehicles.

Two of the major factors contributing to the rapid rise in transportation sector carbon dioxide emissions were a dramatic increase in driving and the stagnating fuel economy of US vehicles.

—The Carbon Boom

Total vehicle miles travelled (VMT) in the US almost quadrupled during the period, rising from 718,762 million miles in 1960 to 2,797,339 million miles in 2001 (2.8 trillion miles). Per capita VMT more than doubled during the period, increasing from 4,041 miles in 1960 to 9,822 in 2001.

Increase in total CO2 emissions by state, 1990 (Kyoto baseline)-2001. Click to enlarge.

Among the states, Texas ranked first in the nation for the highest emissions of carbon dioxide in 2001, releasing 12% of the nation’s total.

The 10 states that experienced the largest overall increases in emissions were Texas, Florida, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Missouri, and Arizona. The 10 states with the largest increases from oil consumption were Texas, California, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio and Washington.




Increases in VMT dwarfed increases in gas mileage. Attempts to improve gas mileage are fruitless unless we can change our driving and living patterns. Realistic? Probably not? Necessary? Absolutely.

Someone in an earlier post suggested that the increase in VMT was not commensurate with increase in MPG. Wrong! Of course, it is debatable whether the two measures are dependent, but these VMT figures do suggest that we need to raise gas taxes -- trying to solve the problem with CAFE standards only deals with one side of the equation.

This also assumes, of course, that one thinks it is important to cut oil and carbon use. Otherwise, party on until the music stops.

allen zheng

Look at NY, must be because of the Nuke and Hydro power.


Uh since 1960 population has gone up how much? Earth to dumbasses THINK!!!!!!!!!!!

Harvey D.

Here we go again. To look good, we are tying GHG increases to GNP and not to per capita for a given area or country. Building and driving 100+ million 3-Ton gas guzzlers has a drastic upward effect on GDP and makes the GHG per GDP/$ look good, even it produces a few more billion tons of GHG.

In USA and Canada, a major portion of GNP increases often = more individual over-consumption of all kind (and often more obesity) and is NOT the best yardstick to compare GHG variations.


Wintermane: Open foot, insert mouth, rinse, repeat.

Population of the US in 1960: ~180Million
Population of the US in 2000: ~280Million
Resulting in a ~55.6% increase in population.
Compare that to the 95% increase in CO2 emissions.


...and that 95% was the total emissions since the transportation sector shows a 151% increase in CO2 emissions.


And since 1960 how many more people work? How many more 2 income households are there? How many more two even 3 job workers are there? And concider how many more of thse people now live in the city where everything has to be transported in from far away and how very little of it is local....

Baxk in 1960 guess how much stuff had to be trucked into cal... now how much stuff is?

No matter how eff the car or truck it gets 0 miles to the gallon in a traffic jam. Our roads are shit.


The world has changed a lot in 46 years. I imagine that most of the increase in transportation emissions is due to moving out into the suburbs. The fact that absolute emissions are still increasing is an example of Jevon's Paradox. Increased efficiently does not necessarily mean decreased use.

Frankly, we really don't have a lot of options to fossil fuels over the short term. But continued GDP growth and the private invesment capital that comes with it is absolutely necessary if we're going to get alternative energy in the first place. That kind of investment takes wealth. You don't see a lot of alternative energy research in poor nations.

Joseph Willemssen

But continued GDP growth and the private invesment capital that comes with it is absolutely necessary if we're going to get alternative energy in the first place.

Talk about a paradox. Most less developed societies live off of so-called "alternative" energy. So, we develop and abandon what we already know and use, just so we can arrive where we were before?

The whole reason that the environment has been trashed is because of modern economic development. It's a good thing to keep that in mind.


Joseph: Most less developed societies also have shorter lifespans, high infant mortality rates, and more infectious diseases.

From 1960 to 2002, infant mortality in the United States dropped from 26/1000 to 7/1000. At the same time, as indicated above, our GDP grew from 2.5 trillion to over 10 trillion. Our growing wealth enables us to invest more money into medical research.

2002 infant mortality in India is 65/1000. In 1960 it was 146/1000 (See same site above). And if you've read the news recently, their economy is growing very, very fast (over 7% last year). Rates are likely still dropping.

Poverty kills. Lack of modern economic development kills.

Go live like the Amish if you want.

Joseph Willemssen

Poverty kills. Lack of modern economic development kills. Go live like the Amish if you want.

Funny. You were giving me a lecture about reductio ad absurdum just yesterday, and here you trot it out yourself.

So, if poverty "kills", how did humans make it to the Industrial Revolution?

Joseph Willemssen

Oh, and define "poverty" in a universal sense.


Joseph Willemssen

And if infant mortality is a metric you're interested in, then why do we have the same rate as Cuba, even though their per capita GDP is about 1/10 of ours? We even have similar life expectancy rates to theirs, as well as Jordan, which has an even lower per capita GDP.

Amish, as long as you're mentioning them, too, have no different life expactancy than other Americans, and my understanding is they have very low infant mortality rates.

But that's neither here nor there. The question was whether it was fair to say that modernization itself is the cause of the main environmental problems we now face, and how it's a bit strange to say we need more wealth to enable the use of "alternative" energy, even though much less advanced nations and cultures run just fine on "alternative" energy. Seems to me we have more than enough wealth and technology at this point to handle the problems. The issue is simply that we aren't doing it enough.

This rise in CO2 output is a case in point. It is more inertia than some "natural" outgrowth of economic growth.


Let us examine our great big energy consuming GDP producing US of A...Infant mortality rate of 7/1000 you say. Yet the USA is 36th in the world for infant mortality. Hmmm...something isn't right here.


The question was whether it was fair to say that modernization itself is the cause of the main environmental problems we now face, and how it's a bit strange to say we need more wealth to enable the use of "alternative" energy, even though much less advanced nations and cultures run just fine on "alternative" energy.

A lot of that "alternative" energy are things like wood. Indeed, India fears that they're heading for a timber famine. The US was in a similar position in the early part of the last century, before we started using oil in any great amounts for transportation, or natural gas for heating. There is a lot of abandoned farmland and pastures out there that has returned to forest.

I don't claim that our modern world is not without costs. We have done a great deal the past 40 years to clean up our act, though I feel we've gone as far as is reasonable. I'm not about to hyperventilate over CO2, but I am hedging my bets for algal oils because of peak oil.


If anyone every told me they were going to make me go back to how it was in 1960 I would gut them like a pig. Slowly.


Here's another reason why I'm not so concerned over CO2. This paper was published in the June 30 issue of the International Journal of Climatology: "The Geoprofile metadata, exposure of instruments, and measurement bias in climatic record revisited", by Rezaul Mahmood, Stuart A. Foster and David Logan.

Joseph Willemssen

I'm not about to hyperventilate over CO2

Well, good for you. I'm not hyperventilating, either, but I also think we don't have forever to get to a point when the truly obstinate will feel the science is sufficient.

It's simple risk-reward analysis. The downside risk is so extreme that even at low probabilities it's prudent to take abatement measures. Simple stuff from a finance background.


Mike, those pictures aren't showing up.
As for the CO2 discussion - look at how much the north polar ice caps have retreated in the last 30 years. This is already having tangible effects on the northern, arctic climates. CO2 is a problem and needs to be dealt with.
As for the whole question of 1960, well let's put it simply: IF technology hadn't improved since then, then MAYBE, wintermane, would you have a point. But technology has improved. Emissions controls are MUCH more stringent. And yet, our increase in CO2 is greater than our population growth. This is indeed upsetting.

tom deplume

US population was about 120 million in 1960 and 280 million now. If CO2 emissions only doubled then per capita emissions declined.


If road building had kept up with road useage needs then yes we wouldnt be in this situation but... Alot of places simply dont have the road infrastructure needed to support thier working and consuming populations. As a result on top of more stuff and people moving about rhey are wasting far more energy doing it via stop and go traffic.Its a snowballing effect. More people more stuff more time in cummute bigger car to handle cummute without back pain or death... mores tops and starts.. far less gas milage even as cars get better...

The big things I notice are the long commutes leading to larger more comfy cars... also massively more stuff moving about... id say there are 200x as many trucks on the road today as back in the 70s much less then 60s and about 8x as many workers. why a deadicated commuter car with a single uber comfy ergonomic seat up front hasnt been made I duno.

Joseph Willemssen

US population was about 120 million in 1960

No, it was 180 million.

Harvey D.

Our inefficient, over-consumption life style has created massive increases in GHG in the last 50 years and will create major climate changes in the next 50 years if we do not change.

Life expectancy is going downward in USA and parts of Canada due to ever increasing pollution and poor strained health care. Higher GDP is not always the best answer. Even Cuba is doing better with 1/10 our GDP

USA and Canada have all what it takes to clean up our act and reduce per capita GHG by 50% while maintaining our high standard of living.

North American built, cleaner more efficient, individual and mass transportation vehicles, houses, offices, stores, fireplaces, appliances, recreation vehicles, electrical plants, alternative energy plants, wind turbines, solar panels etc etc could reduce OIL imports to zero (in USA), eliminate the needs for future OIL wars, provide jobs and cleaner air for generations to come.

Why do we always (still) want bigger (often subsidized) gas guzzlers, drive like kids, pollute the area with noisy mufflers, eat and get fat like .... to prove that we have a superior life style?

It is not GWB's fault. We have the government we voted in and we deserve. As individuals, we have to grow up.

Sunny Tai

well said...


Take 20 eople from age 15 to age 90 and have each of them drive a set of cars from very small to very large in a standard commute in the 60s and then 70s then 80s \then 90 and then now.. from going 85 with few around to zillions on and stop and go today... From the cars of the 50s to the cars of today.

You will then know exactly why.

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