CBO: Background Paper: How CBO Estimates the Costs of Reducing Greenhouse-Gas Emissions

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on April 25, 2009

Background Paper: How CBO Estimates the Costs of Reducing Greenhouse-Gas Emissions, April 2009

  • “Households and businesses in a modern industrial economy like that of the United States emit a number of different greenhouse gases through a wide variety of activities—any or all of which might be regulated under a mitigation program. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that, in 2006, U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases amounted to nearly 7.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MT CO2e)—about 85 percent in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2), 8 percent in the form of methane (CH4), 5 percent in the form of nitrous oxide (N2O), and 2 percent in the form of other (mainly fluorinated) gases. About 86 percent of those emissions (including most of the CO2 emissions) were directly related to the generation and consumption of energy, while the remaining 14 percent came from industrial and agricultural processes as diverse as the production of cement and the management of landfills, wastewater, and agricultural soils. About 94 percent of the CO2 was emitted directly through the combustion of fossil fuels—40 percent from petroleum products, 35 percent from coal, and 19 percent from natural gas. The generation of electricity accounted for about 34 percent of total greenhouse-gas emissions; if emissions from electricity generation are attributed to the sectors that consume the electricity, industry accounted for about 29 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions; transportation accounted for 28 percent; commercial and residential activities accounted for about 17 percent each, and agriculture accounted for about 8 percent. Those emissions were partially offset by the net absorption of roughly 900 million metric tons of CO2 by the nation’s forests and soils.”
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