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US Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions Declined by 2.8% in 2008; Transportation-Related Emissions Down 5.2%

Energy-related CO2 emissions declined by 2.8% in 2008. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.

US carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels decreased by 2.8% in 2008 to 5,802 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (MMTCO2), down from 5,967 MMTCO2 in 2007, according to preliminary estimates released by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). This is the largest annual decline in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions since EIA began annual reporting on greenhouse gas emissions.

Transportation-related emissions, which account for about a third of total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, decreased by 5.2% in 2008. Since 1990 the next largest yearly decline in the transportation sector was 1.3% in 1991. Only one other year in the 1990 to 2008 time period experienced a decline: 1.2% in 2001.

Transportation sector CO2 emissions by fuel types (1990 to 2008). Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.

Transportation remains the largest emitter of the end-use sectors. Motor gasoline accounts for 58.7% of the sector’s CO2 emissions, followed by diesel fuel at 23.2%. Since 1990, transportation sector CO2 emissions have risen by 21.1%—an average of 1.1% per year.

Factors that influenced the overall emissions decrease included record-high oil prices and a decline in economic activity in the second half of the year. Oil-related emissions declined by 6%, accounting for the bulk of overall reduction in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

Total US energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have grown by 15.9% since 1990. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions account for more than 80% of US greenhouse gas emissions.

Other preliminary end-use sector fossil fuel consumption data for 2008 indicate that:

  • Carbon dioxide emissions from the residential sector declined by 1.1% in 2008. Heating degree-days rose by 5.6%, but the summer was also cooler than 2007 and cooling degree-days fell by 8.7%, which helped to offset the increase in heating-related energy demand.

  • The commercial sector, which includes all non-residential, non-industrial buildings, such as stores, office buildings, schools, hospitals, and government buildings, experienced an emissions increase of 0.5% in 2008.

  • Industrial carbon dioxide emissions fell by 3.2% in 2008, continuing a trend of falling industrial sector emissions since 2004. In addition to manufacturing, the industrial sector includes agriculture, construction and mining.

When electric power sector emissions are considered as a whole rather than being allocated to the end-use sectors that consume electricity, they are the largest single source of US carbon dioxide emissions, representing about 41% of total emissions. In 2008, emissions from the electric power sector decreased by about 50 MMTCO2 or 2.1%, while power generation decreased by 1.0%. The decrease in the emissions intensity of generation of 1.1% in 2008 reflected, among other factors, an increase in wind-powered generation.

The economy, as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP), grew by 1.1% in 2008, notwithstanding the economic downturn at the end of the year. Energy demand declined by 2.2% indicating that energy intensity (energy use per unit of GDP) fell by 3.3% in 2008. Carbon dioxide intensity (carbon dioxide emission per unit of GDP) fell by about 3.8%.

From 1990 to 2008, the carbon dioxide intensity of the economy fell by 29.3% or 1.9% per year. From 1990 to 2007 (the latest year of data for all greenhouse gases), carbon dioxide intensity had fallen by 26.4% and emissions of total greenhouse gases per dollar of GDP had fallen by 28.0%.

EIA will continue to refine its estimates of 2008 carbon dioxide emissions as more complete energy data become available. A full inventory of all US greenhouse gas emissions in 2008 to be issued in late 2009 will include updated energy data and provide a further analysis of trends.




Too bad these statistics miss an enormous subtraction.

This only includes "OFFICIAL" emissions and sequestration. If Mr. Gore promises to plant a tree, than it is an "official" CO2 sequestration. If an acorn falls and sprouts into a new tree, it doesn't count as it sucks in CO2 to build its cellular mass.

But US forests are between twenty and thirty percent larger in biomass over twenty years ago, according to NASA satellite measurements. Those natural born trees, gorging on the newly available CO2, are no longer as stunted as their predecessors, who ate almost all the CO2 out of the atmosphere.

These new trees just go about their lives sucking in CO2 and expiring O2, but since they don't file sequestratiion reports to the "OFFICIAL" governmental CO2 accountants, it is as if they never existed. Only Goreal "officially" planted trees or promises to plant one, count.

This whole CO2 issue, once upon a time a genuine concern, has been discredited by Science of the 21st century, and is now just nonsense. It is just so much political jsutificatiion for enormous tax increases.

It is still nice that even the "OFFICIAL" and distorted statistics show that the US is producing less CO2.

No one has contradicted the Princeton Studies that reveal that North America is a net sink of CO2. This continent absorbs more atmospheric CO2 than it generates both naturally and man made. It also absorbs and sequestrates some CO2 from the rest of the World as well. Our parklands and wilderness, set aside by Americans and Canadians, provide plenty of Forests and Grasslands to absorb all our CO2, on net.


I hate having to follow ExDomo who keeps throwing a wet blanket on the AGW fire alarms.

According to an analysis by climatologist Chip Knappenberger utilizing the EPA funded MAGICC: Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse-gas Induced Climate Change, developed by Dr. Tom Wigley and scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research – IF the Waxman/Markey bill were implemented and achieved a 80% reduction in CO2 by 2050 – it would result in a “savings” of only 0.05C!

“By the year 2050, the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill would result in a global temperature “savings” of about 0.05ºC regardless of the IPCC scenario used—this is equivalent to about 2 years’ worth of warming. By the year 2100, the emissions pathways become clearly distinguishable, and so to do the impacts of Waxman-Markey. Assuming the IPCC mid-range scenario (A1B) Waxman-Markey would result in a projected temperature rise of 2.847ºC, instead of 2.959ºC rise— a mere 0.112ºC temperature “savings.”

In other words, mitigating CO2 emissions even at the draconian levels currently demanded – will have a negligible effect on warming, if any.

Scott security, in my view is of greater importance than getting obsessed with CO2.

A good example of this in the UK is how car makers have to emphasise CO2 emissions of vehicles over fuel consumption. CO2g/km for vehicles doesn't make a lot of sense to the the average buyer, except tell them whether they'll get clobbered or not for the CO2 scaled annual VED (road tax in old money). At lest fuel consumption figures tell the proper story of how far a car will go on a gallon of fuel. The two figures are directly linked so why not tell people the standards that make sense.

If we can take forward sustainable ways of energy production and maximise efficiency (reasonably) then reductions in CO2 should follow suit, so the focus needs to shift.

Energy security and costs matter more to the public who are increasingly suffering from scaremongering CO2 fatigue - I'm not saying it is not a problem (the jury is still out for me on this one) but then many are becoming a bit sick and hence immune to the more hysterical reports that are now in the news daily and the patronisation and nannying that goes along with it on reducing your footprint and so on. In the good old days it was about saving energy and money and I would say that it makes more sense in these times. Perhps the recession is one of the main reasons that emissions have fallen, alongside some improvements in efficiency.


I sort of agree with Scott. Energy security and mpg speak more to people than CO2. The good news is that gas prices will soon force us to alternatives and efficiencies. ....well, might not be good news if you're driving a gas hog.
ExDemo needs to realize how big his own carbon ftprint is. There aren't enough forests to absorb what we're all releasing. It has even forced me to consider nuclear (at least the CANDU is failsafe).

Will S

Sulleny, Stan/ExDemo,

Don't look at just the US, look at what other nations' involvement would result in.

From the MIT Energy Initiative Study;

"An MIT analysis of seven climate-change bills now being considered by Congress shows that adopting any of them would cut the nation’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions significantly from a business-as-usual trajectory. The analysis includes additional positive news: the costs to the economy of even the most stringent bill would not substantially dampen economic growth over the five decades covered by the analysis."

"The results show that all of the bills would reduce GHG emissions in the US well below the doubling that the model predicts will occur by 2050 if no action is taken. The more ambitious proposals could limit global temperature rise by 2100 to about 2 degrees C above current levels—about half the projected rise if no action is taken—but only if other nations, including developing nations, also strongly control their GHG emissions."


If we use less energy, our energy security posture would improve proportionally, especially concerning transportation, as we would not be as dependent on foreign sources. But don't take my word for it; listen to people I'm sure you trust;

fred schumacher

Trees have most of their biomass above ground, so they sequester carbon only as long as they are alive, unless they die unnaturally through logging and the wood products stay protected from oxidation.

Perennial grasslands and boreal forests do have long term carbon storage: grasslands in underground biomass which decomposes very slowly after plant death, and boreal forests in their anoxic, acidic soils which prevent decomposition of plant matter, most of which is of moss, not tree, origin. The boreal forest is the largest terrestrial carbon sink on the planet.



US forests sequester only 15% of US co2 emissions.

Where is your source for the claim that it is more than 100%?


It looks a lot like the economy curve,


Keen observation, there could be a correlation. Every time there is an economic contraction (1992, 2002, 2008) there is a reduction in CO2 emissions.


GCC, takes to cowardly censorship?

The boreal forest is the largest terrestrial carbon sink on the planet.
It used to be a big carbon sink, but now it is a source. The warming of the polar latitudes is causing the soils to warm and decompose and release the CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide.
No one has contradicted the Princeton Studies that reveal that North America is a net sink of CO2. This continent absorbs more atmospheric CO2 than it generates both naturally and man made.
This is not true. Sources, please.


I already asked ExDemo for his (her?) sources 2 days ago. Don't wait for it. The claims are obviously a fabrication.


Actually I've read the Princton study. It is being totally taken out of context and it's obvious that the people using it don't know what they are talking about.

In a long arguement with Stan he thought he would be clever by citing it. I went through the net and downloaded it.

Basically, the study tells where the excess (ie extra) CO2 would be distributed. It is unfortunately taken by some as the US would be a sink, which of course shows that some people really don't read what they cite or even worse, project their bias to what they want.

Google this site, I'm pretty sure I cited where it is and the relevent pages, though I sure the rampant denialists won't bother since it effects one of their pillar arguements.

The comments about energy efficieny being so important to people and the need for energy independence. Look up the peanut farmer who became President, Jimmy Carter. Look how easily that got side tracked. Energy efficiency and energy independence are soft issues. Totally qualitative on how you feel. Eco destruction and the loss of billions-trillions of dollars of eco-services and in place infrastructure is just an added bonus to the cost of apathy and willful ignorance.

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