New Report: Pollution Up 27% in Minnesota Since 1990

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Michelle Hesterberg

Environment Minnesota

Minnesota’s global warming pollution increased by 27 percent since 1990, according to a new analysis of government data released today by Environment Minnesota.

“More pollution than ever before isn’t a record we want to set,” said Samantha Chadwick, Associate with Environment Minnesota. “It’s time to take back control of our energy future.  By harnessing the homegrown power of the wind and the sun, we can cut Minnesota’s pollution and stop harming our beautiful environment, and create new, local jobs,” she continued.

For decades, America’s use of fossil fuels – and the global warming pollution that results – has been on the rise nationally and in states across the country.  For Minnesota, global warming means a lot of things, but among the most concerning impacts are the changes to our state’s ecosystems. Scientists are already seeing changes in Minnesota’s forests, and predicting that the Boundary Waters Wilderness could look completely different in just 50 years. We could also face more frequent and extreme droughts and flooding. The science shows that the Minnesota, and the nation as a whole must cut its global warming pollution by 35 percent by 2020 to be able to stop the worst effects of global warming.

Too Much Pollution uses the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Energy on fossil fuel consumption by state to look at trends in carbon dioxide emissions.  The key findings include the following:

  • Minnesota’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel consumption increased by 27% percent between 1990 and 2007.
  • Emissions growth has been greatest from the transportation sector, but most of the growth occurred during the 1990s. Total transportation sector emissions rose just 4 percent from 2000 to 2007, compared to a 44 percent increase from 1990 to 2000.
  • Though Minnesota nearly doubled the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources from 2001 to 2007, electric sector emissions increased by 6 percent during that period because natural gas-fired generation more than tripled.
  • In Minnesota, transportation was the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel consumption – responsible for 35.6 percent of the state’s emissions in 2007.  The state remains heavily wedded to automobiles for its transportation needs.  In fact, carbon dioxide emissions from burning oil jumped by 44.3 percent from 1990 to 2007, as demand for travel and driving increased.  Until Minnesota invests more in public transit and other clean transportation alternatives, coupled with land use policies that encourage more compact develop patterns that reduce the need for driving in the first place, emissions from transportation will continue to increase.
  • Nationally, emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel consumption increased by 19 percent between 1990 and 2007.  Power plants and vehicles, the largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, were responsible for the lion’s share of the increase. 

In contrast to the trend in Minnesota, more than one-third of the states succeeded in cutting pollution from 2004 to 2007 – before the onset of the economic recession.  The initial success of these states shows that moving to clean energy can have a significant and immediate impact on overall emissions – and that emission reductions and robust economic growth can occur side by side.  For instance, four Northeast states – Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, and New York – cut their pollution levels by 5 percent since 1997, while increasing their gross state product by 65 percent.

“We can drive the economy without driving up pollution.  By moving to clean energy, we can cut pollution, help jump-start the economy, and create millions of new clean energy jobs across the country,” said Chadwick.

The report recommends that the federal government build on the initial progress made by some states by passing strong clean energy legislation and adopting common sense EPA rules to cut pollution from aging coal plants and big smokestack industries.  The Senate is in the process of considering the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733), sponsored by Senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer.  In addition, EPA has proposed a rule to require coal plants and other large smokestack industries to use available technology to cut their global warming pollution when new facilities are constructed or existing facilities are significantly modified.

Unfortunately, Dirty Coal, Big Oil, and other polluters are fighting the transition to clean energy.  The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a coal industry lobby group, spent at least $45 million dollars last year alone – more than $120,000 a day – on lobbyists and advertising on energy.  Earlier this year, they hired lobbyists who forged phony constituent letters to Congress opposing action on clean energy.  “The coal industry has proven themselves willing to do or say virtually anything to block progress,” said Chadwick.

 “We urge Senators Klobuchar and Franken to vote for this critical bill to cut pollution and create clean energy jobs.  We urge EPA to finalize its rule to cut global warming pollution from coal plants,” said Chadwick.