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12 May 2010

Low-carbon developments play key role as US carbon emissions plummet

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Recession drives record drop in emissions, but government agency insists cuts in energy and carbon intensity also made a sizeable contribution

Carbon emissions in the US dropped by seven per cent in 2009, representing the biggest fall since records began in 1949.

The data, released by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), indicates that the fall in emissions was due to more than just the financial crisis, which began in earnest in September 2008.

"Even with the reduction in economic growth since 2000, emissions would nonetheless have grown by 0.6 to 0.7 per cent annually, had the proportional relationship between economic and emissions growth remained the same as during the 1990s," the EIA stated.

The agency said that the level of carbon emissions was determined by four contributing factors: population, GDP, energy intensity and the carbon intensity of the energy supply. The EIA figures revealed that each of these metrics fell in 2009, except for population.

Per capita GDP fell by 3.3 per cent, while energy intensity and carbon intensity of the energy supply also fell by more than two per cent, according to the report.

"These three factors combined in roughly equal proportions to cause emissions to fall by seven per cent," the report said, indicating that the decline in emissions was due to a combination of economic factors and the success of recent efforts to enhance US energy efficiency and shift towards low-carbon energy sources.

The energy intensity decline was due to a fall in energy consumption across all sectors, but in particular the industrial sector, which saw a decline in energy consumption of almost 10 per cent.


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