U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Increased 1.7 Percent in 2004

July 13, 2005

The emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels in the United States increased by 1.7 percent in 2004, according to preliminary estimates by the DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA). Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are the primary source of greenhouse gases in the United States, and are generally indicative of overall greenhouse gas emissions trends. According to the EIA, these emissions have increased by 18.2 percent since 1990. At the same time, however, the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) has grown at a faster rate, causing the carbon dioxide intensity of the economy—that is, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of GDP—to actually drop by 22.5 percent. The EIA expects a full inventory of greenhouse gas emissions to be available in November. See the EIA press release and the preliminary emissions estimates.

Despite the trends, a number of states and cities have committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in recent weeks. Most notable is California, where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has issued an executive order setting a number of greenhouse gas targets. Under the executive order, the state will aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2010, to 1990 levels by 2020, and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Meeting those goals will be a challenge, since a recent report from the California Energy Commission (CEC) notes that if current trends continue, the state's greenhouse gas emissions will grow to 32 percent above 1990 levels by 2020. See the press release and executive order on the California Climate Change Portal Web site or download the CEC report (PDF 616 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

Mayors of U.S. cities are also getting into the act, as the U.S. Council of Mayors endorsed an effort by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels to challenge cities to meet or beat the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol: cutting emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Before the meeting of the council in mid-June, 164 cities had signed on to the challenge. Portland, Oregon, has the largest head start: City officials announced in June that Portland has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels. Portland officials credit the city's investments in public transit, energy efficiency, renewable energy, green building technologies, and recycling. See the press releases from Seattle Mayor Nickels and the City of Portland Office of Sustainable Development (PDF 130 KB).