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US Emissions Fell in 2009, But UK Data Suggests Rises Could Be in Store

The U.S.’s total anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions fell 5.8 percent between 2008 and 2009, the largest drop in the 19 years emissions have been tracked, according to new figures from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The one-year decline from 6,983 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) in 2008 to 6,576 MMTCO2e in 2009 is due largely to the recession, to struggling energy-intensive industries and to a substantial drop in the price of natural gas, which saw power companies take up the fuel as a substitute for coal, the EIA said.

Most of the GHG drop came from CO2 emissions, which fell by 7.1 percent. Nitrous oxide fell by 1.7 percent. But methane rose by 0.9 percent, and partial data revealed a 4.9 percent increase in emissions of man-made gases with high global warming potentials, the EIA said.

Natural gas accounted for 22.4 percent of CO2 emissions in 2009, the EIA said, compared to 34.6 percent for coal and 42.7 percent for petroleum.

Meanwhile, in the U.K., the Department for Energy and Climate Change released preliminary greenhouse gas data for 2010. This revealed a 2.84 percent rise in GHGs between 2009 and 2010, the biggest gain since 1990, Bloomberg reports.

Emissions of the six greenhouse gases covered by the 1997 Kyoto protocol rose from 566.3 million metric tons in 2009 to 582.4 million metric tons in 2010, the department said. Like the U.S., the U.K. had seen a record-setting decline in emissions from 2008 to 2009.

One possible reason for the U.K.’s emissions increase was its recent cold winter, with 2010 the coolest year since 1986, Bloomberg reported. Last year ended with the coldest December since records began in 2010. Several nuclear plants were also closed for maintenance last year, forcing utilities to rely more on fossil fuels, the government said.

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