The Energy Information Agency recently issued a report stating that the U.S. energy sector’s carbon dioxide emissions fell last year to their lowest level since 1994. During that same 28-year period, real U.S. gross domestic product rose 56 percent.

carbon emissions

When it comes to deciding who deserves credit for such an accomplishment, many point to the U.S. oil and natural gas industry.

“They invest more in zero- and low-emissions technologies than the federal government and nearly as much as all other industries combined,” said Howard Feldman, American Petroleum Institute’s director of regulatory and scientific affairs. “Innovations in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have helped make the U.S. the biggest developer of natural gas in the world, and these technologies are a great example of how we can grow the economy, create jobs and clean the air.”

EIA also stated that after 1990, only the recession year of 2009 saw a larger percentage emissions decrease than 2012. But unlike those recession-stricken years, last year saw GDP rise by 2.8 percent — while energy consumption fell 2.4 percent — and the EIA says this can be credited to a 5.1 percent decline in energy use per dollar of GDP.

Over the longer term, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for each unit of GDP has been on a downward trend since records began in 1949, but the 6.5 percent drop in 2012 was the largest reported drop. Only two other years — 1952 and 1981 — had declines greater than 5 percent, according to the EIA.

When adjusted for economic growth and inflation, the United States has cut its energy needs by more than 50 percent since 1973, and the trend shows no signs of slowing.