Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rebounded in 2010 but still remained six percent below 2005 levels, according to an analysis by the Energy Information Administration.
Energy-related CO2 underwent a historic decline in 2009. That year the economy as measured by the real gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 3.5 percent compared to the previous year, but emissions fell by over 7 percent.
Last year, CO2 emissions saw their largest absolute and percentage increase (213 million metric tons or 3.9 percent) since 1988. Only two years – 1996 and 2000 – have shown similar growth in the time period since 1990.
The EIA said that 2010 was an atypical year for emissions growth, just as 2009 showed an unusual decline. Total energy consumption rose by 3.8 percent in 2010 across all end-use sectors. Because GDP increased by only 3.0 percent, the energy intensity of the economy increased by 0.7 percent.
The industrial sector experienced an increase in total energy consumption of 5.7 percent in 2010 – about two percentage points greater than overall energy demand. The residential sector total energy demand grew by 5.2 percent. Other sectors saw smaller increases – energy use in the transportation and commercial sectors grew by 1.9 percent and by 1.7 percent respectively.
The EIA said it is difficult to draw conclusions about the implications of last year’s emissions increase. “Just as 2009 was an atypical year in terms of the magnitude of the emissions decline, 2010 likely does not signal a new trend in emissions growth,” the agency noted.