Carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption in the United States during 2012 fell to the lowest level since 1994, finds a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a branch of the Department of Energy.
The assessment concludes that some 5.3 billion metric tons of CO2 were emitted from coal, natural gas, and oil consumption during the year, a 3.7 percent decline relative to 2011 and 12.1 percent below the peak of 6 billion tons hit in 2007. The EIA cited increased use of natural gas and falling consumption of coal as the primary reason for the drop in emissions of the greenhouse gas.
“The largest drop in emissions in 2012 came from coal, which is used almost exclusively for electricity generation,” said the agency in a post on its web site. “During 2012, particularly in the spring and early summer, low natural gas prices led to competition between natural gas- and coal-fired electric power generators. Lower natural gas prices resulted in reduced levels of coal generation, and increased natural gas generationâ€”a less carbon-intensive fuel for power generation, which shifted power generation from the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel (coal) to the least carbon-intensive fossil fuel (natural gas).”
Coal emissions fell 11.3 percent during 2012, while natural gas emissions rose 4.4 percent. Coal emissions are down nearly a quarter since their 2005 high.