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Freight Facts and Figures 2013

Table 5-15. U.S. Transportation Sector CO2 Emissions from Fossil Fuel Combustion by Fuel Type: 1990, 2005, and 2008-2011 (millions of metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent)

CO2 accounts for nearly all of the transportation sector's GHG emissions, primarily from the combustion of fossil fuels. Almost all of the energy consumed by the sector is petroleum-based and includes motor gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, and residual oil. Gasoline-fueled passenger cars and light-duty trucks are responsible for about 61 percent of transportation sector CO2 emissions while the combustion of diesel fuel in medium- and heavy-duty trucks and jet fuel in aircraft produced much of the rest.

From 1990 to 2011, transportation CO2 emissions rose by 17 percent, likely the result of increased demand for travel and the stagnation of vehicle fuel efficiency. More recently, however, transportation sector CO2 emissions have declined due in part to slow economic growth and higher fuel prices, which in turn have led to a decrease in demand for passenger travel.

Table 5-15

Table in Excel format | Historical data

Millions of metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent

Fuel 1990 2005 2008 2009 2010 2011
Petroleum (R)1,457.9 (R)1858.7 (R)1779.3 (R)1,711.3 (R)1,725.8 1,706.2
   Motor gasoline 983.7 1,187.8 1,130.3 1,128.5 (R)1,125.0 1,100.4
   Distillate fuel oil 262.9 458.1 (R)443.5 (R)409.7 (R)426.3 435.4
   Jet fuel (R)184.2 189.3 (R)155.1 (R)154.1 (R)151.5 146.5
   Residual fuel1 22.6 19.3 19.9 15.4 (R)19.3 20.1
   Aviation gasoline 3.1 2.4 2.0 1.8 1.9 1.9
   Liquefied petroleum gas 1.4 1.7 2.5 1.7 1.8 1.9
Natural Gas 36.0 33.1 36.7 37.9 (R)38.1 38.8
Transportation Total2 (R)1,494.0 (R)1,891.7 (R)1,816.0 (R)1,749.2 (R)1,763.9 1,745.0
U.S. Total2 (R)4,748.5 (R)5,748.7 (R)5,590.6 (R)5,222.4 (R)5,408.1 5,277.2
Transportation Sector as % of Total (R)31.5 (R)32.9 (R)32.5 (R)33.5 (R)32.6 33.1

Key: CO2 = carbon dioxide; R = revised.

1Fluctuations in emissions estimates reflect data collection problems.

2Electricity-related emissions are not included in the transportation sector and U.S. totals.


CO2 equivalent is computed by multiplying the weight of the gas being measured by its estimated Global Warming Potential (GWP). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change developed the GWP concept to compare the ability of one GHG to trap heat in the atmosphere to another gas. Carbon comprises 12/44 of CO2 by weight. Numbers may not add to totals due to rounding. Electricity-related emissions are not included in this table.


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2011, EPA 430-R-13-001 (Washington, DC: April 12, 2013), Annex 2, tables A-11, A-12, A-13, A-14, A-15, A-16, A-17, A-22, A-27, and A-32, available at as of September 13, 2013.


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