New Report: Pollution Down 2% in Texas since 2004

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AUSTIN— Texas’ global warming pollution declined by 2 percent since 2004, the year in which pollution levels began to peak in many states, according to a new analysis of government data released today by Environment Texas. Texas still ranks 1st nationwide for the highest levels of global warming pollution. 

“The trail to a clean energy future is long, and Texas is just starting to saddle up,” said Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger. “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.”

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.  Scientists predict significant harm to Texas if global warming continues unabated. Temperatures are expected to increase 5.85 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, droughts will get worse and sea level rise will cause major damage to the coast. The science shows that the United States must cut its global warming pollution by 35 percent by 2020 to be able to stop the worst effects of global warming.

“I welcome the news that climate-changing pollution in Texas fell by 2% between 2004 and 2007, even as other states saw their emissions increase,” said Congressman Lloyd Doggett. “This modest improvement means we are beginning to see the green shoots of change that my friends in Environment Texas and I have championed for so long.  Behind this data is a shift toward fewer air toxics, cleaner water, and good, green collar jobs for Texans.  We create almost four times as many jobs by investing in wind energy as we do when we invest in coal-fired power plants.  As the Nation’s number one producer of wind power, what makes for a greener planet can also mean more green in our wallets. Yet Texas remains the number one producer of greenhouse gas pollution.  We still have a long way to go and Congress must continue to vigorously promote a renewable energy future, including a strong bill to combat global warming.”

The 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.  The key findings include the following:

·       Texas’ carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel consumption declined by 2 percent between 2004 and 2007, reversing a decades-long trend toward increasing pollution. But Texas still ranked 1st nationwide for the highest levels of carbon dioxide emissions in 2007.

·     Texas has also succeeded in holding the line on growth of emissions from its electricity sector. On a per capita basis, emissions from electric generators in Texas fell by 4 percent between 2004 and 2007—the result of reduced reliance on coal and an increase in the share of power produced by natural gas and wind. Since 2005, the amount of power produced by renewables (other than hydroelectric power) in Texas has more than doubled.

·       By 2007, Texas was getting 2.5 percent of its power from these clean sources of energy compared with just 0.5 percent in 1997. Texas—which is now America’s number one producer of wind power—has been able to use its growing wind power portfolio to reduce the need for additional fossil fuel generation, keeping emission growth from the electricity sector at bay.

·        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. 

“While Texas has experienced a slight decline in greenhouse gas emissions over the last five years, the amount falls far short of that required to mitigate the threat of global warming,” said Judith Clarkson, research scientist and contributor to The Impact of Global Warming in Texas. Texas needs to aggressively increase its efforts to promote energy conservation and renewable energy production, and reduce fossil fuel consumption by prohibiting the construction of new coal-fired power plants.”

In total, 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.

“This report confirms that Texas can cut global warming pollution without harming our economy,” said state Representative Eddie Rodriguez. “Wind and solar power will clean up our environment and create good paying jobs, helping the Lone Star State transition to a clean energy economy.”

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 Metzger.

“We urge the EPA to finalize its rule to cut global warming pollution from coal plants,” said Metzger.