Report: Texas leads U.S. in carbon emissions

Alaskans produce six times more carbon dioxide per capita than New Yorkers, study shows

Posted: Sunday, June 03, 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.

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The Associated Press analyzed state-by-state emissions of carbon dioxide from 2003, the latest U.S. 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.

• In Alaska, the carbon dioxide produced per person by all the flying and driving is six times the per capita amount generated by travelers in New York state.

• 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.

• 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.

"There's no question that some states have made choices to be greener than others," said former top 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, some experts say. National emissions dipped ever so slightly last year, but that was mostly because of mild weather, according to the Energy Department.

"Some states are benefiting from both cheap electricity while 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."

He noted that the states putting out the most carbon dioxide are doing the least to control it, except for California.

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. That doesn't mean that somehow then it's good carbon, I'm just saying that's why those numbers come out the way are," Freudenthal said.

And the massive carbon dioxide-spewing and power-gobbling refineries of Texas and Louisiana fuel an oil-hungry nation, whose residents whine when gasoline prices rise.

Emissions from generating electricity account for the largest chunk of U.S. greenhouse gases, nearly 40 percent. Transportation emissions are close behind, contributing about one-third of U.S. production of carbon dioxide. States with mass transit and cities, such as New York, come out cleaner than those with wide expanses that rely solely on cars, trucks and airplanes, like Alaska.

Alaska, which stands out for its carbon dioxide production, also stands out as one of the early victims of climate change. Its glaciers are melting, its permafrost thawing, and coastal and island villages will soon be swallowed by the sea. Alaska ranked No. 1 in per-person emissions for transportation, which includes driving, flying, shipping and rail traffic.

That's not the state's fault, says Tom Chapple, director of the state Division of Air Quality. Its sheer expanse requires a lot of air travel. And Anchorage ranked No. 2 nationally in air cargo traffic.

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