U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels dropped 3.2% in 2008 and are projected to fall a further 5% this year, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Emissions from coal will account for more than a half of this decline.

The EIA’s "Short Term Energy Outlook" released Tuesday began reporting projected energy-related CO2 emissions for the first time. For 2010, it foresees a 0.7% increase in carbon emissions due to economic recovery and a modest growth in energy consumption.

The decline in 2009 of energy-related CO2 emissions will come from a 4% decrease in petroleum, primarily due to the decreased consumption of jet fuel and fuel oil. Also, emissions from natural gas combustion are expected to drop 2.3%, mainly due to a fall in power production. But CO2 emissions from natural gas are expected to grow slightly in 2010 as consumption increases by about 0.5%, the EIA expects.

In contrast, emissions from burning coal will drop 7.9% because of declining industrial power use and the switch of electric utilities to natural gas, hydroelectric, and wind. The agency forecasts that in 2010, increases in coal consumption will lead to a 1.1% increase in related CO2 emissions, however.

The EIA’s report projects that this year the electric power sector will consume about 975 million short tons of coal—the first time since 2002 that annual consumption will fall below the billion-short-ton level. Coal consumption in the power sector is expected to increase by 1.3% in 2010, but it will remain below the billion-short-ton level. However, the agency said that that in 2010, coal will regain a larger share of the baseload generation mix as rising natural gas prices hinder growth in natural gas–fired generation.

As a whole, retail sales of electricity are expected to drop 2.7% during 2009. The decline in the West South Central region is projected to be smaller than in other regions because hot summer weather has boosted residential electricity sales. Total electricity consumption is expected to rise by 0.8% in 2010.

Electricity prices rose by 7.5% during the first five months of 2009 as high generation fuel costs were passed through to retail consumers. Lower generation fuel costs this year are expected to be passed through to retail consumers later this year, keeping the annual average growth in prices at around 4.2% in 2009 and 2.6% in 2010.

Source: EIA