The 3 Main Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the United States

Most of us understand the dangers we face by using fossil fuels and increasing the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Researchers and scientists urge us to switch to alternative sources of energy to reduce our individual impact. This is great and we should do all that we can, but we should also know where the majority of our emissions are coming from.

There are three sources of greenhouse gas emissions that make up almost 79 percent of what the United States produces: transportation, electricity, and industry. (These numbers are based on the EPA’s 2016 report.)


Transportation produces the most greenhouse gas emissions at 28.5 percent. This includes the emissions from cars, trucks, ships, airplanes, and trains. The majority of the fuel used for transportation (over 90 percent) is petroleum-based, including gasoline and diesel. Road transport creates the majority of the emissions compared to the others. The International Energy Agency states that in 2012, transportation emissions made up 22 percent of what the country produced. We have increased the frequency of driving without making vehicles cleaner.


Electricity production is the cause of 28.4 percent of the emissions produced by the United States. About 68 percent of electricity production comes from fossil fuels, mainly coal and natural gas. This is actually a large decline from the 2012 numbers, stating that electricity production used to be a whopping 41 percent of emissions. The United States has continued to increase its use of alternative energy sources.


Industrialization comprises 22 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. This refers to the electricity needed to create chemical reactions that produce goods. Companies need the energy to power the equipment needed for manufacturing. For example, limestone has to be heated to 1450°C to make cement, and we use a massive amount of cement on a daily basis, whether that be for buildings, sidewalks, or roads. The numbers have barely changed since 2012, only rising 2 percent in 2016.

You Can Affect Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Now that you know where the majority of our country’s emissions are coming from, you can do all in your power to reduce that amount. You can reduce emissions when you drive to lower the transportation emissions. Invest in a green car or one that has a great fuel economy—the less fuel burned, the fewer greenhouse gases emitted. (You can find other ways to increase your fuel economy here.) Smart electricity use will also help you reduce the energy you use for electricity. Invest in and support renewable energy sources so the electricity you use will be clean.

We have to share this knowledge. There are better options available to us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but people will not change if they do not know about those options. Together, we can spread awareness and reduce our country’s emissions.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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Lacey Jolley

I love exploring, experiencing new places, and eating good food! I'm amazed every day at how well the Earth provides for us, and I want to return the favor. I hope to help others learn how we can make our world a better, cleaner place.

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