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US Greenhouse Gas Emissions Up 2% in 2004, Intensity Down 2.1%; Transportation Leads

Annual change in US GHG Emissions, 1996–2004. Click to enlarge.

The latest report on greenhouse gas emissions from DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows a 2.0% increase in 2004 to 7,122.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) from 2003’s 6,983.2 MMTCO2e.

The EIA attributes the large growth in 2004 to a surging U.S. economy, which in turn resulted in more energy use. The economy grew 4.4% in 2004—the fastest since 1999—and in turn the carbon dioxide generated from energy use increased by 1.7%. But since the greenhouse emissions grew slower than the economy, the U.S. greenhouse gas intensity—the amount of greenhouse gas emissions per unit of economic output—decreased by 2.1% in 2004.

Since 1990, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 15.8%, for an average annual increase of 1.1%.

The 2004 increase in total greenhouse gas emissions is attributable primarily to a 1.7% increase in emissions of carbon dioxide to 5,973.0 million metric tons, along with increases in emissions of nitrous oxide (5.5%) and methane (0.9%). Emissions of engineered gases—hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)—also increased, by 9.6 percent.

CO2 Emissions by Energy Sector

Transportation emissions of CO2 climbed 3.1% from 2003 to 2004, and account for the largest percentage of carbon dioxide emissions (32.4%).

Almost all (98%) of transportation sector carbon dioxide emissions result from the consumption of petroleum products: motor gasoline, 1,162.6 MMT (60% of total); middle distillates (diesel fuel), 428.2 MMT(22%); jet fuel, 237.4 MMT(12%); and residual oil (heavy fuel oil, largely for maritime use), 54.6 MMT (2.8%).

The growth in transportation-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2004 included increases in emissions from the use of motor gasoline (21.2 MMT, up 1.9%), diesel fuel (17.9 MMT, up 5.1%), residual fuel oil (10.0 MMT, up 22.7%), and jet fuel (8.2 MMT, up 3.6%).




is the huge drop in 2001 a result of highly reduced airplane travel post-9/11?


The part that mystifies me is residual fuel oil. I thought this was rarely used for transportation purposes, if at all.


It is for marine applications.

David Windsor

"Canada saw emissions rise 24% since 1990, far above the U.S. rate."

Oil sands?

Harvey D

David W. - You are correct with the +24% overall increase. However, it is very difficult to get accurate detailled breakdown for every activity and sources. I've been trying to work it out and I may have something fairly accurate within a few weeks. The switch to light truck and 4 x 4 in many parts of Canada has created more pollution in the transportation sector. The increased use of coal power plants in Ontario and other provinces is another important source. Population growth and economic activity growth are also important factors. Pollution from Tar Sands activities (all) has gone up drastically in the last five years. It seems obvious that Kyoto had no possitive effect, yet.

tom deplume

Avgas and JetA are a very small percentage of fossil fuel use. The drop was due to the recession following the dotcom bubble burst.

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