The Top Ten Biggest Global Warming Polluters in Texas

Refinery in Houston, Texas in 2018
Michael Lewis

Former Clean Air and Water Advocate, Environment Texas

This article is part of a series highlighting the science on how global warming is impacting Texas, the largest sources of pollution, solutions for cutting emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and steps for adapting to those climate changes which are now inevitable.

Read our full report HERE

Texas is the largest annual emitter of carbon dioxide in the United States, emitting 683.2 million metric tons in 2019 — nearly twice as much as second place California. If Texas were a nation, it would rank as the eighth-largest emitter in the world. And global warming pollution in Texas is increasing.

So where the heck is it all coming from?!? Three main sources: transportation, industry, and electricity generation.



It should come as no surprise that most of our emissions are from the fossil fuel industry. Texas extracts, produces and refines more crude oil and natural gas than any other state. We’re also home to 70% of the nation’s petrochemical production capacity. Dozens of new petrochemical facilities, liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals, and other manufacturing facilities threaten to significantly increase Texas’ industrial emissions


Passenger cars, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and light-duty trucks are the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector nationally, accounting for nearly half of these emissions. High transportation emissions result in large part from Texans’ commutes — in 2016 alone, Texans drove more than 271 billion miles. Texas drivers are responsible for more carbon dioxide than every train in the world combined. Factors driving high emissions from light-duty vehicles include inefficient vehicles running on dirty fuels, car-dependent land use patterns, lack of transit access and dangerous conditions for walking and biking.

Commercial aircraft, ships, boats and trains make up the remainder of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.


While Texas has made significant progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector, and is now ranked first and second for wind and solar power production respectively, Texas still remains the largest consumer of coal in the United States and total emissions from the state’s power sector alone exceed the pollution from the entire economies of all but six states.

But who are our top emitters?

Not surprisingly, the top greenhouse gas emitters in the state are either power companies or refineries. The obvious conclusion is that Texas must move towards a fossil fuel free economy.

The top ten greenhouse gas emitters in Texas are responsible for over 94.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gases

Encouragingly, a recent University of Texas study found “it is possible for the Lone Star State to achieve a net-zero future, and there are multiple ways of getting there.” Despite the state economy’s historic dependence on fossil fuel production, Texas could eliminate its carbon pollution in fewer than thirty years while also increasing jobs and the state GDP. The report found that decarbonization of the electric grid, increased electrification of vehicles, reforestation, and other methods will be key to getting Texas to net-zero emissions.

As one of the world’s largest global warming polluters, Texas has a responsibility to lead and to act. The challenge is massive, but solutions are at hand. Switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy is one of the first steps necessary to prevent the worst impacts of global warming. By supporting this transition, Texas can continue to lead the nation in ingenuity and help preserve our great state for future generations.


Michael Lewis

Former Clean Air and Water Advocate, Environment Texas

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