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EIA: US energy-related CO2 emissions down 1.7% in 2016; carbon intensity of economy down 3.1%; transportation emissions up

US energy-related CO2 emissions decreased by 89 million metric tons (MMmt), from 5,259 MMmt in 2015 to 5,170 MMmt in 2016. Although real gross domestic product (GDP) increased 1.5% over that period, other factors contributing to energy-related CO2 emissions more than offset the growth in GDP, leading to a 1.7% decline in energy-related CO2, according to the latest report from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

These contributing factors included a decline in the carbon intensity of the energy supply (CO2/British thermal units [Btu]) of 1.7% along with a 1.4% decline in energy intensity of the economy (Btu/GDP). Combining these two factors, the overall carbon intensity of the economy (CO2/GDP) declined by 3.1%.

Emissions have declined in 6 out of the past 10 years, and energy‐related CO2 emissions in 2016 were 823 MMmt (14%) below 2005 levels, according to the EIA.

Among the findings of the EIA analysis:

  • CO2 emissions form natural gas surpassed those from coal in 2016. Natural gas CO2 emissions have increased every year since 2009. The natural gas share of electricity generation has grown as the coal share declined, partially offsetting the decline in energy-related CO2 emissions from coal.

  • CO2 emissions from petroleum and other liquids, which have been the largest source of energy-related CO2 in recent decades, have been increasing since 2012 after remaining relatively constant from 2004 to 2007 and then generally decreasing through 2012.

  • Of the four end‐use sectors, only transportation CO2 emissions increased in 2016. Since the late 1990s, the transportation sector has produced the most CO2 emissions. These emissions were highest in 2007, prior to the recession, and have not returned to those levels, despite increasing every year since 2012.

Transportation increase led by gasoline consumption. The 2016 increase in energy‐related CO2 emissions from the transportation sector was led by motor gasoline consumption, according to EIA.

Since 2012, declines and the subsequent stability in the price of motor gasoline and other fuels, along with the continued economic recovery, have led to higher fuel consumption and increases in energy-related CO2 emissions in the transportation sector. Transportation‐related CO2 emissions increased by 34 million metric tons (MMmt) (1.9%) in 2016.

Motor gasoline accounted for 56.0% of the 34 MMmt net increase in transportation-sector CO2 emissions in 2016—totaling 19 MMmt—an increase of 1.8% from the 2015 level.

Emissions from jet fuel increased by about 4.0% (9 MMmt) between 2015 and 2016; diesel fuel emissions, on the other hand, declined by 2.7% between 2015 and 2016.



Heavier gas guzzlers have a negative effect on pollution and CO2 generated by ground vehicles and the trend is not going the right way.

The switch to more lighter HEVs, PHEVs, BEVs and FCEVs could reverse the current trend but the change-over is slowed by batteries low performances and high cost.

Very high speed e-trains and more efficient Jet engines could also reduce pollution and CO2 generated but initial cost would be high. Using FCs for e-trains and short range e-planes could be a more manageable solution.


Natural gas has been most of the carbon reduction.


Cheaper fuels have lowered consumer resistance to lower fuel consumption models and increasing discretionary use relative to stagnant or negative wages growth. While the biggest contributor to lower fuel economy reporting from transport might have something to do with large penalties for misrepresenting actual economy and therefore cO2 emissions claims.

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