This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

July 03, 2002

U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Emissions Decreased in 2001

There's an ongoing political debate in the United States about whether or not decreasing our greenhouse gas emissions will be bad for the U.S. economy. While the outcome of that debate remains uncertain, here's one thing we can be sure of: a bad U.S. economy certainly helps to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, at least those related to energy.

Indeed, a slow U.S. economy is being credited by DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA) for a 1.1 percent decline in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2001, the first since 1991. The EIA's preliminary analysis of carbon dioxide emissions shows a 9.1 percent drop in the industrial sector, which was offset by a 6.2 increase in the commercial sector and small increases in the residential and transportation sectors.

Meanwhile, U.S. carbon intensity - the amount of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions per unit of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - fell from 169 metric tons per million dollars of GDP (in constant 1996 dollars) in 2000 to 165 metric tons per million dollars of GDP in 2001, a 2.4 percent decrease. A decrease in carbon intensity indicates that the United States economy is becoming more energy efficient. See the EIA press release.

Carbon dioxide is just one of many greenhouses gases, but it tends to dominate the total emissions. Likewise, most carbon dioxide emissions are generated by using energy, so energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are generally a good indicator of overall greenhouse gas emissions trends. For more information, see the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Global Warming Emissions Web page.