Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2012 were the lowest in the U.S. since 1994 with the largest drop in emissions coming from coal, according to a report released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Total carbon dioxide emissions for 2012 equaled 5.3 billion metric tons, according to the EIA. With the exception of 2010, emissions have declined every year since 2007.
The drop in coal-fired emissions was partially caused by the drop in price of natural gas.
“During 2012, particularly in the spring and early summer, low natural gas prices led to competition between natural gas- and coal-fired electric power generators,” according to reports. “Lower natural gas prices resulted in reduced levels of coal generation and increased natural gas generation — a less carbon-intensive fuel for power generation, which shifted power generation from the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel (coal) to the least carbon-intensive fossil fuel (natural gas.)”
Other factors the EIA stated contributed to lower emissions in 2012 include decreased demand for transportation fuels and mild winter temperatures that reduced demand for heating.