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Annual U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Shows Reduced Emissions

Published on 17 April 2014

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by Office of the Spokesperson


Washington, D.C.

Total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from U.S. sources fell 3.4 percent in 2012 as compared to 2011 levels, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced April 15.

The Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, which is submitted annually to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, presents a national-level overview of annual greenhouse gas emissions since 1990.

Major contributors to the decrease in emissions were the reduction in energy consumption across all sectors in the U.S. economy and the decrease in carbon intensity for electricity generation due to switching fuel from coal to natural gas.

Carbon intensity is the average emission rate of a pollutant from a given source relative to the intensity of a specific activity, such as the grams of carbon dioxide released per megajoule of energy produced. Carbon intensity also can be expressed as the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions to a nation’s gross domestic product.

Other factors contributing to the decline included a decrease in transportation-sector emissions due to increased fuel efficiency across different transportation modes and limited new demand for passenger transportation, according to EPA.

Scientists have identified greenhouse gases as the primary drivers of climate change, leading to increased heat-related illnesses and deaths, worsening air pollution that can cause asthma attacks and other respiratory problems, and expanded ranges of disease-spreading insects. Researchers have linked climate change with the frequency and intensity of heat waves, droughts and other extreme weather events.

A report released April 13 by Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found greenhouse gas emissions globally are continuing to rise and stated that the world’s governments have not done enough to reduce those emissions. Top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, were quick to embrace the report.


Under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the EPA is taking steps to address carbon dioxide pollution from the power and transportation sectors and to improve energy efficiency in homes, businesses and factories. These steps include increasing fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2012–2025. That regulatory change is projected to save vehicle owners more than $1.7 trillion over the service lives of those vehicles.

The United States also is increasing energy efficiency through the ENERGY STAR program, which saved Americans more than $26 billion in utility bills in 2012. That program was created in 1992 by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy.

Since then, the program has been adopted by Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and the European Union and has become an international standard for energy-efficient consumer products. Devices such as computer products and peripherals, kitchen appliances and other products that carry the ENERGY STAR seal generally use 20 percent to 30 percent less energy than the minimum efficiency standard set by U.S. federal regulations.

According to EPA’s greenhouse gas inventory, GHG emissions in 2012 were 10 percent lower than 2005 levels. Total U.S. emissions of the six main greenhouse gases in 2012 were equivalent to 6,526 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. These gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride.

EPA prepares the annual report in collaboration with other federal agencies and after gathering comments from interested parties across the country. In addition to tracking U.S. GHG emissions, the inventory also calculates carbon dioxide emissions that are removed from the atmosphere through the uptake of carbon in forests, vegetation, soils and other natural processes collectively termed carbon “sinks.”

The greenhouse gas inventory report is available on the EPA website.



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Posted 2014-04-17 17:22:00