Thursday, January 17, 2008

Texas to Blame for High US CO2 Emissions? Not So Fast

This AP article blasts Texas as a hopelessly unenvironmental state whose "everything's bigger" mentality has led it to being the state with staggeringly more CO2 emissions than the rest of the US. It goes on to point out that if TX were a country (as I believe some believe it is...), it would rank 7th in the world in CO2 emissions! It does go on to point out that Texas's CO2 emissions are so high because of the state's sheer size, population, and industrial density, but my interpretation is that the article clearly intends to paint TX as a complacent entity that should learn a lesson or two from the emissions reduction initiatives in Cal. or NY.

Well, we already acknowledged that Texas's size may be a good reason for its emissions, so maybe there is a better way to compare states - how about carbon intensity! Carbon intensity is defined by the EIA as the ratio of CO2 emissions to gross domestic product and by the IPCC as the ratio of CO2 emissions to primary fuel use. One could argue that absolute emissions are all that matters, but carbon intensity is probably a better way to make basic emissions comparisons. I mean seriously, can we really compare Delaware to TX when it comes to total emissions? We're talking apples and oranges here.

So where does Texas stack up? Using the most recent 2004 data (I guess it takes a while to inventory a country's emissions), in emissions per primary fuel use, TX is #27. Per GDP? #16. So not great, but certainly not the worst of the bunch by these metrics. In case you're curious, top 3 in both measures are Wyoming, West Virginia, and North Dakota.

So my point is, cherry picking statistics to frame an article is certainly not uncommon, and we need to be aware that this practice helps shape more than just energy related policy and public opinion (seen any US article on China's energy use lately?). As the state with the 3rd highest GDP and highest fuel use, TX can certainly learn from other economically similar states like CA and NY, but care should be taken and all facts researched before we start labeling any US emissions scapegoat.


Nilou said...

I need to mention that I really don't agree with this statistic. This article is whether outdated or just not true. I attended 11th Annual AWMA Hot Air Topics Conference this last October. This conference included experts from industry, private sector, government including EPA and TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality). It has been a fact that in past Texas specially Houston has been performing worse than CA today it is true that Texas is no longer the primary emitter. We also need to consider the fact that we have world largest refineries in Texas which have been putting efforts in reducing emissions including CO2. I also think that unlike what people think CO2 is actually not as bad as what people believe and there are pollutants that need more attention. If anybody is interested I actually can scan the conference material as a reference.

J.T. Marsh said...

The article is from yesterday. The statistics seem old because the most recent completed and posted EPA CO2 inventory is 2004. I couldn't quickly find anything more recent. The article's total emission isn't the same as the EPA data I used, but it's pretty close.

Which statistic do you not agree with?