I was a bit sad, but not surprised, to see that the results of a first ever county by county comparison of CO2 emissions showed Harris County (Houston) to be the number one CO2 polluter in the country. Harris County was able to just beat Los Angeles for the top spot. This is applicable for me as I have recently accepted a job in downtown Houston starting next fall.
The Houston Chronicle article does point out that industry is a large part of these emissions (54%) from petroleum and chemical manufacturing. 26% of the emissions are from vehicles. This is favorable when compared to Los Angeles as more than half of LA’s emissions are from vehicles.
I did think one of the quotes in the article was pretty humorous and unfortunate. Bill White’s (mayor of Houston) health policy director (Elana Marks) was quoted as saying “People [Houston residents] shouldn’t feel guilty about this…but they should pay attention to the data and realize that we all have a part to play in reducing our carbon footprint”. I’m guessing that what she means is that since most of Harris County’s CO2 comes from industry, the fact that Harris County is #1 is out of people’s control and thus is no fault of Harris County residents – it’s just a result of the fact that industry is located in the Houston area. While I do partially agree that residents can’t control the location of refineries, it’s pretty irresponsible to suggest statements like these from a political leadership position. Residents need to be more than just mindful of their CO2 emissions, they need to be proactive and political leaders need to reinforce the message that CO2 emissions need to be controlled/reduced in the interests of our environment. Everyone plays a role in this responsibility from driving vehicles to using electricity in homes, etc.