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Carbon dioxide emissions drop in 2008

Carbon dioxide emissions drop in 2008

Source: Assotiate press

High fuel prices, economic woes lead to sharp drop in carbon dioxide emissions in 2008
H. Josef Hebert and Dina Cappiello, Associated Press Writer
On Wednesday May 20, 2009, 5:58 pm EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- There is a positive note to the country's economic woes and last summer's $4-per-gallon gasoline: The nation in 2008 had a record decline in the amount of climate-changing carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

The government reported Wednesday that energy-related carbon dioxide emissions declined by 2.8 percent last year compared to 2007, the largest annual drop since the government began regular reporting of greenhouse gas pollution.

The Energy Information Administration attributed the decline to a 2.2 percent drop in energy consumption, largely because of high gasoline and diesel prices last summer and the sharp economic decline in the last half of the year.

The government figures were released as members of a House committee continued a weeklong struggle to craft a sweeping climate bill that would impose limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The dramatic drop in emissions last year demonstrates the effect of higher fuel costs on the pollution blamed for global warming. The premise behind the bill before Congress is that making pollution more expensive will drive down emissions. Even supporters of the bill acknowledge it will lead to higher energy prices, but greater energy efficiency, conservation and reliance on nonfossil fuels will offset much of those costs.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act, which is before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, calls for cutting greenhouse emissions by 17 percent over the next 11 years and by 83 percent by mid-century. The bill would base its reductions on 2005 levels and require gradual annual reductions. Initially the government also would provide emission credits to energy-intensive areas of the economy to ease any price shocks.

Carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels accounts for about 80 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. The 2008 statistics released Wednesday provide a snapshot for a single year, not an indicator of a future trend, barring congressional action. But it does demonstrate the effect energy prices have on the flow of heat-trapping emissions.

The EIA said the sharpest drop in emissions came in the transportation sector where carbon dioxide pollution fell by 5.2 percent in 2008, by far the largest decline recorded. It reflects the drop in travel caused by soaring gasoline and diesel costs last summer and the general economic decline later in the year. The largest previous drop in travel related emissions was 1.3 percent in 1991.

Emissions from the residential sector fell 1.2 percent. A colder winter caused more emissions in winter, but that was countered by a cooler summer that required less use of air conditioning, the EIA report said. Overall, electric power companies saw emissions decline 2.1 percent. While much of that drop was economy related, some was attributed to greater use of wind turbines for electricity production.

The climate debate in the House committee continued Wednesday along a sharp partisan divide.

The committee's Democrats fended off repeated attempts by Republicans to kill the bill, or at least include provisions that would make it difficult to implement.

GOP lawmakers argue that the bill would result in sharp increases in energy costs that would harm consumers and the economy in general. Their amendments, defeated in party-line votes, would have linked implementation of the bill to such factors as increases in electricity rates, higher gasoline prices and unemployment levels.

Democrats argued that they have fashioned the bill in ways to blunt sharp consumer energy cost increases and to help energy-intensive industries.

The bill is H.R. 2454.

Energy Information Administration:


House Energy and Commerce Committee:

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