US carbon dioxide emissions rise at fastest rate since 1996

By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, July 2 -- US carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels rose 2.7% in 2000, the highest rate of increase since 1996, a government agency reported.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions totaled 1.6 billion metric tons of carbon in 2000, compared to 1.5 billion metric tons in 1999, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a preliminary analysis. CO2 emissions rose 3.7% in 1996.

EIA attributed the 2000 rise in emissions to a return to more normal weather, decreased hydroelectric power generation that was replaced by fossil-fuel power generation, and a 5% increase in economic growth, the highest annual growth rate experienced during the 1992-2000 expansion.

Hydroelectric generation, which produces no CO2 emissions, was down 14%.

Because CO2 emissions account for more than 80% of US greenhouse gas emissions, the EIA said they are a good indicator of the change that can be expected in total US greenhouse gas emissions.

Preliminary data indicate CO2 emissions in the residential and commercial sectors increased 3.2% and 3.9%, respectively, as a return to more normal weather in 2000 translated into higher fossil fuel use for heating purposes.

Transportation-related CO2 emissions, which account for about a third of total CO2 emissions, increased 2.6% in 2000 as a strong economy led to increased demand for travel, it said. Industrial emissions, which showed no growth in 1999, increased by 1.8% in 2000, the highest since 1996.

Despite a slowing of the economy in the fourth quarter of 2000, overall economic growth helped to push emissions higher as gross domestic product expanded 5% and manufacturing grew 6.1%. The agency said between 1990 and 2000, energy-related CO2 emission grew 16%, or less than half the 39% growth in the US economy.

EIA also said the estimate for 1999 CO2 emissions was adjusted upward by 6 million metric tons, resulting in a 1.5% growth rate from 1999, rather than the 1% reported last year.

EIA said its full report will be completed in October.

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