Texas Leads The Nation In Carbon Emissions. It’s Time To Mess With Texas.

Source: brionv/Flickr

This commentary originally appeared on the EDF Voices blog.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently released its annual report on carbon emissions from energy-related activities. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Texas once again led the nation, emitting an estimated 652.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010. That represents close to 10% of the carbon emissions from the entire country.

I love my state, but this isn’t a “#1” we should be proud of. Our emissions contribute to the global increase in carbon in the atmosphere and influence extreme weather patterns.

And yet, Texas continues to challenge protections to limit the amount of greenhouse gases, wasting valuable time and resources trying to thwart the efforts to handle a critical public health threat.

I know there are people in Texas who are concerned about the greatest environmental challenge of our time. And I am inspired by news of the 7% increase in renewable power generation in the state last year. And I am inspired by visionaries such as Elon Musk who is exploding into the market with zero emission technologies like Tesla. You’d see more of his cars in Texas if the state would let them.

Texas has tooted its horn as a pro-business state for years, which has led us down the smog-ridden road we are on now. It’s not too late to change the tune of our song to be pro- clean energy business.  Rather than constructing more fossil-fuel driven power plants, Texas can continue leading the nation with wind and solar development.  Renewable energy will not only continue to propel Texas’ economy, but also cut down on air pollution.  That’s a win-win for everyone, and a ranking for which Texas can be proud.

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  1. Brad Taylor
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 10:03 AM | Permalink

    I’d like to unpack the #1 ranking a bit , because I think it is misleading, though that was probably your intent. I assume you are using EPA sources for this. If we break it down on a simple PER CAPITA basis (not a huge task for a PHD), Texas is not in the top 10.

    OK, let’s break it down a little more – Texas has significant and largely unique CO2 industrial sources – we produce over 25% of the natural gas, over 25% of oil, and have at least 25% of the refineries in the U.S. To keep the math simple, let’s say we use 10% of the US total, which would mean 40% of the 25% for our own use. This means we are incurring CO2 debt on oil, gas, and refining amounting to over 60% from those sources on behalf of the rest of the country.

    Finally, EPA does not consider any carbon sink capabilities in assessment. Texas has 8.5% of the continental U.S. by square miles. That is a pretty big sink, and that doesn’t count the Gulf shallows of Texas.

    Does Texas need to continue to improve in air quality? Sure, especially in the major met areas with a lot of growth, a lot of cars, and a hot climate that can lead to pollutant trapping. But make your case in a way that is overly simplistic, overblown, and that really amounts to an infomercial for donors. Its advocacy, and not worth considering for policy.

  2. Posted August 6, 2013 at 7:24 AM | Permalink

    Thank you for the comment. The source I linked to in my post is actually the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), not the EPA. The EIA has a great report that shows total carbon emissions, per-capita carbon emissions, carbon intensity of the economy, and a number of other useful figures for all 50 states. The report leads a great discussion around various sources that contribute to a state’s carbon emissions – check it out!

    Texas ranks 15th in the nation in terms of carbon emissions per capita – most of the states with greater per-capita emissions than Texas, however, (e.g. Wyoming, North Dakota, and Alaska) have a very low population. States with a population more comparable to Texas’ (e.g. New York and California) have some of the lowest per-capita emissions in the United States.

    But let’s not split hairs here. However you count it, Texas is a major source of global carbon emissions—and those emissions are placing unprecedented strain on the Earth’s climate. Texas has a responsibility to the global community to take the initiative and reduce its impact on the environment. We can do better and we know that more people are concerned than ever before – check out these recent stories that have inspired me over the last couple of weeks: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/28/young-republicans-gop_n_3666800.html and http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-07-25/blue-tape-marks-climate-change-risks-for-coastal-businesses