Industries bump up greenhouse gas emissions rates

Posted: Sunday, February 18, 2007

ANCHORAGE - Alaska puts more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere per person than any other state because of huge industries operating in such a sparsely populated place, according to a report commissioned by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

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On a per-capita basis, Alaskans produce nearly four times more carbon dioxide than the average American, according to the recent study by E.H. Pechan & Associates of California.

Big industries in Alaska, such as oil, mining, commercial fishing and aviation, generate CO2 far out of proportion to the state's tiny population.

Industries burning fuel for operations generated 41 percent of Alaska's annual CO2 emissions, the study said. An additional 7 percent came from the release of methane (measured in terms of "CO2 equivalents") by the oil and gas industries.

The transportation sector was also a significant culprit, generating 35 percent of the state's CO2 emissions. About three-fifths of transportation-related carbon dioxide comes from the aviation sector, according to the study.

The amount of greenhouse gases generated in Alaska will likely increase in the next decade, the study said.

In 2005, Alaska produced 52 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents, about 21 percent more greenhouse gases than the state generated in 1990. The amount is projected to have increased by another fifth by 2020, the study said.

The study did not pinpoint which companies are emitting the highest levels of the planet-warming gas, according to Steve Roe, one of the study's principal authors

"That's likely to involve some follow-up work," he said.

State officials said they are interested in getting more specific answers about air pollution sources.

"How much comes from the natural gas that's used by our oil industry on the Slope?" said DEC director Tom Chapple. "All our seafood processors generate their own power. Almost all of our mines generate their own power. How does that all break down?"

Roe released the findings Wednesday at a climate change symposium at the weeklong Alaska Forum on the Environment at Anchorage's Egan Center.

Discussion moderator Deborah Williams, a former Department of Interior director for Alaska, pointed to New Mexico, Arizona and California as examples of states that are taking proactive steps to slow global warming. The states have pledged to significantly lower their CO2 emissions in coming years.

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