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(Excerpt from article by Ars Technica's John Timmer)

"The Department of Energy has run the numbers on US carbon emissions in 2009, and found they dropped by about seven percent compared to the previous year, the largest decline the agency has ever seen. Although the economic downturn had been expected to lower emissions, the slowdown in GDP only accounted for about a third of the change. Greater efficiencies, less-energy-intensive activities, and a shift away from coal use accounted for the rest. The numbers haven't been this low since the mid-1990s and, even adjusting for the economy, take us a substantial distance towards President Obama's goal of cutting emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade.

The DOE report, compiled by its Energy Information Administration, provides both a retrospective analysis of the past few decades, and a breakdown of the factors contributing to the most recent year's decline. But both of them point in roughly the same direction: the relationship between economic growth and carbon emissions that held in the 1990s no longer exists. In that decade, carbon emissions grew at about half the rate of the US GDP. In the more recent decade, GDP growth dropped by half, but carbon emissions actually declined over the course of the decade—by an average of nearly one percent annually...

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