U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Fall by Greatest Margin in a Generation

Some encouraging statistics emerged from U.S. environmental data recently, as carbon dioxide emissions related to energy use dropped 2.8 percent for the year 2008. If the estimate, released by the Energy Information Administration, is accurate, it would represent the single largest annual decline in carbon dioxide output since 1982.

Analysts suggest the drop is the product of two factors: the inflated oil prices that were seen for much of 2008, and the global economic downturn that ensued once prices crashed back to Earth. Optimists, however, prefer to believe that increased environmental and emissions awareness are at least partly responsible.

However, further data suggests the emissions reduction is inextricably linked to the economy. Nationwide, there was a 3.8 percent drop in the amount of carbon dioxide produced per dollar of economic output. Industries and citizens alike became more aware of the need to be frugal and conservative, given the economic climate.

On the positive side, however, this 3.8 percent decline is, in part, also due to renewable and greener energy sources gaining a larger portion of the market share. As the United States and other countries seek energy independence and alternatives to traditional fuel sources, the reliance on renewable and greener energy is expected to continue increasing in the years and decades to come.

Critics of U.S. environmental policy claim that the country isn't doing nearly enough to wean itself off of traditional energy sources; a country with the resources that the United States has, they argue, should be a global pioneer in renewable energy and could already have reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by a much greater margin.

With a spike in oil prices expected to strike the commodities market once the world recovers from the current economic slowdown, it's likely the pattern of reduced energy use will emerge once again. Some analysts are predicting that oil will cost $200 a barrel by 2014, which would undoubtedly inspire many consumers to seek more affordable alternatives. Of course, it's the goal of environmentalists around the country to get people to seek these alternatives for ecological rather than economic reasons.

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