Texas CO2 Pollution: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back



Last week, a report showing a drop in Texas’ carbon dioxide emissions attracted a lot of attention. The AP:

While Texas maintains a firm grip on the dubious title of the nation’s most prolific industrial polluter, an environmental group’s report Thursday found that wind power and other cleaner energy sources have helped cut emissions linked to global warming in the state.

Environment Texas analyzed the most recent U.S. Department of Energy statistics that show the state is still the leader in carbon-dioxide emissions but cut such pollution by 2 percent between 2004 and 2007. In that same four-year period, emissions around the country went up 0.7 percent and increased in 33 states, according to the report.

“We can drive the economy without driving up pollution,” said Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger. “By moving to clean energy, we can cut pollution, help jump-start the economy and create millions of new clean energy jobs around the country.”

A two percent drop isn’t much but, coming before the recession and an attendant drop-off in carbon-related activities, it did signal that the world’s seventh largest emitter of CO2 was perhaps moving, ever-so-slightly, in a more planet-friendly direction. To some extent, it also put the lie to Gov. Perry’s fearmongering about greenhouse gas legislation.

Don’t get too excited though. If built, the 12 proposed coal-fired power plants would wipe out the modest gains more than twice over. To illustrate this, I worked the Environment Texas data into a graph and added the estimated carbon dioxide emissions from the 12 coal plants, about 77 million tons.

Texas CO2 emissions

The chart assumes that all 12 plants are in operation by 2014 and makes no assumptions or warranties about what effects a weak economy, greenhouse gas legislation, new wind power or any other factor may have on total greenhouse gas emissions.

Building new coal plants is a sure-fire way to quickly ramp up climate-changing gasses. Texas’ seventeen existing coal plants are already responsible for roughly one-third of all CO2 emissions in Texas. With 12 more, coal would constitute 38 percent of the total.

As with so many things, we could be moving one step forward, two steps back.