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EPA: Economic Growth, High Gas Prices Boosted Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2003

High natural gas prices were cited by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as one of the primary reasons that total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions rose by 0.6% in 2003 from 2002 levels. Rising gas prices caused electric power producers to switch from natural gas to burning more coal.

Moderate economic growth, leading to greater power demand and use of fossil fuels, was the biggest factor in the emissions increase. The colder winter, which caused an increase in the use of heating fuels, also contributed, EPA said in its draft of the annual Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2003.

From 1990 to 2003, emissions have grown by 13% while the U.S. economy has grown by 46%, EPA said. Total emissions of the six main greenhouse gases were 6,899 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2003. These gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride.

Fossil fuel combustion remained the largest source of emissions in 2003, accounting for 80% of the total. It has accounted for roughly 80% of the total since 1990. Carbon dioxide was the primary greenhouse gas emitted by human activities in the United States in 2003, representing 84.7% of total emissions, and fossil fuel combustion produced 95% of total CO2 emissions in 2003.

The Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2003 is prepared annually by the EPA, in collaboration with experts from a dozen other federal agencies. After EPA completes a final version of the document, the Department of State will submit the Inventory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. A Federal Register notice announcing a 30-day public comment period on the report was published on Monday.

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