The Monthly Energy Review for August 2009 has been published by the US Energy Information Administration and it has some interesting CO2 production data which you can see here in tabular form.
I’ve graphed the data of interest in two separate graphs. First we have the annual plot of “Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Fossil Fuel Consumption by Source” with data to the end of 2008 for the USA:
Note that in 2008 a significant drop was seen in total CO2 produced. Corresponding to the drop is a drop in CO2 produced by petroleum, which seems to indicate that high gasoline prices last year which contributed to less miles driven, may have been the dominant factor.
The Department of Transportation notes in U.S. Traffic Volume Trends:
Cumulative Travel for 2008 changed by -3.6% (-107.9 billion vehicle miles). The Cumulative estimate for the year is 2,921.9 billion vehicle miles of travel.
Gas prices receded though in late 2008 and into 2009. But our economy continued its slide with layoffs, store closings, and less demand for durable goods during that same period.
The graph above compares USA CO2 output by source for the first 5 months of 2008 and 2009. As you’d expect, there is a seasonal drop in coal and natural gas related to less heating requirements, but there remains significant offsets compared to the same months in 2009 for petroleum and coal use. With the severe winter and cool spring seen in much of the US eastern areas with the heaviest population, one might expect increased demand for heating. In fact, this EIA report shows that average heating degree days from 2008 to 2009 tripled, with significant jumps in the east, Midwest, Great Lakes, and New England.
With heating demand actually went up in the first 5 months of 2009, one explanation for this 2008 to 2009 drop in CO2 production could be our sagging economy. With less demands for durable goods, manufacturing and transport are reduced. This affects coal due to lowered electricity demands and petroleum is less for for lowered goods transport. Unemployment may also figure in lowering petroeum usage due to less daily commuting.
I found it interesting that despite all the eco-pronouncements of reducing fossil fuel use, the one thing that appears to have made a significant difference is our sagging economy.
The EIA web page with additional reports is available here