Facts on U.S. Greenhouse Emissions

The following quick facts on greenhouse gas emissions are from the Energy Information Administration's Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States 2008 report, which was published in December 2009:

  • Total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2008 were 7,052.6 MMTCO2e (metric tonnes equivalent), which was 2.2 percent below the 2007 total.
  • The EIA projects that the United States' carbon dioxide emissions will be 5,746 MMTCO2e in 2010, which is 18.6 percent of global CO2 emissions. In 2030, it is projected that U.S. carbon dioxide emissions will be 6,207 MMTCO2e, or 15.4 percent of global emissions. China, on the other hand, is projected to emit 7,222 MMTCO2e in 2010 (or 23.4 percent of global emissions), and 11,730 MMTCO2e in 2030, or 29.2 percent of global emissions.

Energy-related CO2 emissions dominate total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions

The chart above shows the shares of energy-related CO2 emissions accounted for by major energy fuels

  • Petroleum is the largest fossil fuel source for energy-related CO2 emissions, contributing 41.9 percent of the total. Coal is the second-largest fossil fuel contributor at 36.5 percent. Although coal produces more CO2 per unit of energy, petroleum consumption—in terms of British thermal units (Btu)-made up 44.6 percent of total fossil fuel energy consumption in 2008, as compared with coal's 26.8 percent.
  • Natural gas, with a carbon intensity that is 55 percent of the carbon intensity for coal and 75 percent of the carbon intensity for petroleum, accounted for 28.5 percent of U.S. fossil energy use in 2008 but only 21.4 percent of total energy-related CO2 emissions.

In the chart above, emissions are divided into three categories: emissions from the direct use of fossil fuels in homes (for example, natural gas for heating), commercial buildings, and industry; emissions from fuel use for transportation (principally, petroleum); and emissions from the conversion of primary energy to electricity in the electric power sector.

  • The electric power sector is the largest source, accounting for 40.6 percent of all energy-related CO2 emissions. The electric power sector consists of those entities whose primary business is the production of electricity.
  • The transportation sector is the second-largest source, at 33.1 percent of the total. Those emissions are principally from the combustion of motor gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel.
  • Direct fuel use in the residential and commercial sectors (mainly fuel for heating) and the use of fuels to produce process heat in the industrial sector account for 26.3 percent of total emissions.
Source: The EIA Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States (2008)

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