New Report: Pollution Up 36% in Montana since 1990

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Environment Montana

Missoula, MT- Montana’s global warming pollution increased by 36% percent since 1990, according to a new analysis of government data released today by Environment Montana.

“We are pumping out pollution at a higher rate than ever before, and that isn’t a record we want to set,” said Environment Montana’s Zoee Turrill.  “It’s time to take back control of our energy future.  By harnessing the power of the wind and the sun, we can cut pollution and transition to clean energy sources that don’t harm the environment, never run out, and create new, local jobs,” she continued.

For decades, America’s use of fossil fuels has been on the rise nationally and in states across the country.  Extensive and juried research shows that the carbon dioxide pollution that results from the use of fossil fuels contributes to climate change and global warming. “For Montanans, climate change means a lot of things, but clearly the most striking example is the dramatic reduction of glaciers in Glacier National Park and their likely complete disappearance within the next 20 years,” said State Senator David Wanzenried.

The new report, 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.  According to Mike Phillips, State Representative from Bozeman, “The report shows that the status quo is unacceptable. We must usher in a new energy future by reducing our pollution to improve national security, economic development, and environmental integrity.”

The key findings include the following:

  • Montana’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel consumption increased by 36 percent between 1990 and 2007. Montana ranked 6th nationwide for the highest per-capita carbon dioxide emissions in 2007.
  • Montana’s electricity generation was the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel consumption – responsible for 52% percent of the state’s emissions in 2007.  The state is reliant on coal, the dirtiest of all fuels.  In fact, the state’s carbon dioxide emissions sourced just from burning coal jumped 28% percent from 1990 to 2007.
  • While we exported nearly half of our energy to other states, Montana kept all of the pollution from dirty power here at home. Until Montana diversifies its electricity sources to include cleaner sources of energy, like wind and solar power, increases in electricity demand from inside and outside the state will continue to increase pollution from dirty power plants.
  • 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. 

“We were second nationally for the greatest percentage increase in emissions since 2004, which means that Montana is not immune from being responsible for the need for a new energy future,” said Phillips. Both Phillips and Wanzenried serve on a national coalition known as CLEAN, the Coalition of Legislators for Energy Action Now, which was catalyzed by the White House to assist with passage of clean energy jobs and climate change legislation and includes 45 state legislators across the country.

The report also shows that states have proven 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 bringing non-polluting alternatives into our inventory of energy sources, we can start an orderly transition to clean energy.   We can cut pollution, help jump-start the economy, and create millions of new clean energy jobs,” said Chuck Tooley, former Mayor of Billings and former President of the Montana League of Cities and Towns.

Montana has an immense potential for wind generation – tied for 2nd in the nation according to a Harvard University Study – which could create thousands of jobs, especially in rural areas.  “We have the potential to be a leader in the clean energy economy, and the passage of Montana’s renewable energy standard law is already moving us in the right direction,” stated Phillips, who is the founding member of the Climate Change Caucus for the Montana Legislature.

The report recommends that the federal government build on the progress made at the state level and pass strong clean energy legislation. Unfortunately, oil and coal companies, and other polluters are fighting passing any federal legislation that requires more 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.  Earlier this year, the organization hired lobbyists who forged phony constituent letters to Congress expressing opposition to federal legislation.  “Some in the industry have proven themselves willing to do or say virtually anything to block progress, but their tactics are even losing support from inside as more companies like Duke Energy and Alstom Power decide to leave the coalition” said Turrill.

According to Wanzenried, “Right now we have an opportunity to prevent the worst effects of climate change.  We can do this while building a cleaner, more secure energy future for Montana and the nation and creating thousands of new jobs in the process.”