The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) on 25 October released a report which shows that total US greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise in 1993. According to Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States 1987-1994, emissions grew from 1,617 million metric tons of carbon-equivalent (mmtce) in 1990 to 1,644 mmtce in 1993, an average annual growth rate of 0.6%. The growth is driven primarily by CO2, which in 1993 accounted for over 85% of US greenhouse gas emissions.
While complete data is not available for 1994, the report indicates that growth continued in that year. CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use -- which account for over 98% of US CO2 emissions -- grew from 1,372.5 million metric tons of carbon (mmtc) in 1993 to 1,396.2 mmtc in 1994. More than half of this 1.7% increase came from the transportation sector. The balance of the increase came from the industrial and commercial sectors, as emissions from the residential sector showed no significant change between 1993 and 1994.
Over the 1990-1994 period, CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use increased at an average annual rate of 1%. The EIA notes that this is about half the rate at which the economy grew. It attributes the relatively slower growth in CO2 emissions to greater dependence on natural gas (which emits about 55% as much carbon per unit of energy than coal), greater electricity production from nuclear power plants, and demand-side management programs which encourage energy efficiency and conservation.
Howard Geller and Hugh Morris, of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, say the data shows an "energy intensity" improvement: adjusting the data to eliminate the effects of weather variations, the US required 4.6% less energy for a constant dollar of Gross Domestic Product in 1994 than it did in 1990. They said in a brief issued on 1 June 1995 that this represents a 1.2% annual improvement in energy intensities between 1990 and 1994. This is much lower than the 2.3% annual improvement between 1973 and 1986. "Efficiency improvements in recent years were not large enough to compensate for growth in overall economic activity, resulting in higher energy use and carbon emissions."
Geller and Morris say the emissions increases "are troubling in light of the Climate Change Convention and the commitment of industrialized nations to return to 1990 emissions levels by 2000." They recommend that the Clinton Administration's Climate Change Action Plan be "well funded and effectively implemented." They also say the US should go beyond the plan and in particular should improve the energy efficiency of vehicles. "These challenges," they say "should not be overlooked as the Federal government strives to reduce the budget deficit and streamline its operations."
Published in "Global Change Electronic Edition," September 1995. Copyright 1995 by Center for Global Change. "Global Change Electronic Edition" encourages readers to reproduce and disseminate this material. "Global Change Electronic Edition" is available in its entirety on the World Wide Web at http://solstice.crest.org/environment/global_change/gc.htm. Portions of the Electronic Edition also are available as simple text files at several locations on the Internet. For more information, contact the Editorial Office, Global Change, 1347 Massachusetts Ave., SE, Washington, D.C. 20003-1540. Tel/Fax: +1 202 547 0850. Email (Internet): firstname.lastname@example.org.
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