U.S. energy CO2 output drops record 2.8 pct

(Adds background on emissions)

NEW YORK, May 20 (Reuters) - U.S. emissions of the main greenhouse gas -- carbon dioxide -- from energy sources, such as gasoline, diesel and coal, fell a record 2.8 percent last year as the recession hit consumer demand for fuel, the government said on Wednesday.

Energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide in 2008 fell 165 million tonnes from the previous year to 5,802 million tonnes, said the Energy Information Administration, the statistics branch of the Department of Energy. Total U.S. energy consumption dropped 2.2 percent during the year, it said.

Even with the recession-related drop, the United States remains by far the largest greenhouse gas polluter on a per capita basis and the largest emitter save China. Total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions have jumped by almost 16 percent since 1990.

Energy-related CO2 emissions represent over 80 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions that are blamed for global warming.

U.S. emissions from petroleum fuels in 2008 fell 6 percent as the recession forced consumers to keep cars in garages.

"Near the end of the year, despite lower energy prices, gasoline and diesel demand was dampened by a drop in consumer income," said the EIA.

Fuel prices had shot to record prices during the middle of the year, when crude oil hit $147 per barrel, which also helped cut consumer demand.

The Department of Transportation said on Wednesday Americans drove fewer miles in March for the 16th month in a row.

Emissions from power plants, the source of 41 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide pollution from energy sources, fell 2.1 percent over the year, with output of CO2 from coal burning down 1.1 percent, the EIA said.

Carbon dioxide pollution from the top two sectors, power and transportation, have generally risen since 1990, the EIA said.

Output of CO2 from industrial sources, however, has declined about 8 percent since 1990, the EIA said.

The EIA said a government report on all 2008 U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, including methane and other gases, will be available in December. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner and Tom Doggett; Editing by Walter Bagley)