About Air and Water

Monday, June 4, 2007

Coal-burning Texas tops in emissions

By SETH BORENSTEIN - The Associated Press - Mon, Jun. 04, 2007
WASHINGTON -- America may spew more greenhouse gases than any other country, but some states are astonishingly more prolific polluters than others -- and it's not always the ones you might expect.

The Associated Press analyzed state-by-state emissions of carbon dioxide from 2003, the latest Energy Department numbers available. The review shows startling differences in states' contribution to climate change.

The biggest reason? The burning of high-carbon coal to produce cheap electricity.
Texas, the leader in emitting this greenhouse gas, cranks out more than the next two biggest producers combined, California and Pennsylvania, which together have twice Texas' population.

Wyoming's coal-fired power plants produce more carbon dioxide in just eight hours than the power generators of more populous Vermont do in a year.

"There's no question that some states have made choices to be greener than others," said former Energy Department official Joseph Romm, author of the new book Hell and High Water and executive director of a nonprofit energy-conservation group.

The disparity in carbon dioxide emissions is one of the reasons there is no strong national effort to reduce global-warming gases, experts say.

"Some states are ... polluting the planet and make all the rest of us suffer the consequences of global warming," said Frank O'Donnell, director of the Washington environmental group Clean Air Watch. "I don't think that's fair at all."

Several federal and state officials say it's unfair and nonsensical to examine individual states' contribution to what is a global problem.

"If the atmosphere could talk, it wouldn't say, 'Kudos to California, not so good to Wyoming,'" said Assistant Energy Secretary Alexander "Andy" Karsner. "It would say, 'Stop sending me emissions.'"

Some coal-burning states note that they are providing electricity to customers beyond their borders, including Californians. Wyoming is the largest exporter of energy to other states, Gov. Dave Freudenthal told The Associated Press.

He said two-thirds of the state's carbon footprint "is a consequence of energy that is developed to feed the rest of the national economy."

And the huge carbon dioxide-spewing and power-gobbling refineries of Texas and Louisiana fuel an oil-hungry nation.

Nonetheless, some of the disparities are stunning.

On a per-person basis, Wyoming spews more carbon dioxide than any other state or any other country: 276,000 pounds of it per capita a year, because of burning coal, which provides nearly all of the state's electrical power.

Just next door to the west, Idaho emits the least carbon dioxide per person, less than 23,000 pounds a year. Idaho forbids coal power plants. It relies mostly on nonpolluting hydroelectric power.

Texas, where coal barely edges out natural gas as the top power source, belches more than 1 trillion pounds of carbon dioxide yearly.

U.S. Energy Information Administration's emissions data, www.eia.doe.gov/environment.html

Calculate your own carbon footprint, www.safeclimate.net/calculator.

Texas is ranked number in total carbon dioxide emissions (in millions of metric tons) in 2003. Texas had more carbon dioxide emissions than the next two highest states combined. Texas (670), California (389) and Pennsylvania (271).
Texas is number one in total carbon dioxide

Texas is the 10th highest state when carbon dioxide emissions per capita (in metric tons). Per person, Texas ranks tenth in per capita carbon dioxide emissions (in metric tons) in 2003. Source: Energy Department
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