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Thinner wallets mean less greenhouse gas pollution

While a recession anywhere isn’t welcome news, one U.S. energy-watcher has found a silver lining in the economic downturn there.

Using the latest short-term energy consumption forecasts from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Dennis Markatos-Soriano, founder and director of Sustainable Energy Transition (SET), calculates that the U.S. will spew out about 2.5 percent less carbon dioxide in 2008 than it did in the previous year. (And it didn’t even have to join the Kyoto Protocol to get there!)

“This has been a banner year for renewable energy and efficiency,” Markatos-Soriano said. “I just hope the recessionary fall in energy prices doesn’t bring back bad habits of excessive energy consumption in the years ahead. The best path to economic recovery is making the U.S. a leader of the global sustainable energy revolution in the next few decades.”

The EIA’s most recent Short-Term Energy Outlook, released last week, pegs total U.S. petroleum consumption in 2008 at 19.6 million barrels per day, down some 1.1 million barrels per day, or 5.4 percent, from 2007. The agency notes it’s the first time since 1980 that consumption has dropped by more than one million barrels per day.

The EIA further notes that the U.S. is likely to see petroleum consumption shrink by a further 250,000 barrels per day in 2009 — more than twice its previous forecast.

Will continued price drops encourage historically energy-profligate Americans to return to their old ways? Perhaps not: it’s hard to spend money on oil when you don’t have any (money, that is) and more and more Americans do not.

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