All Hail Texas!

King of greenhouse-gas pollution

All Hail Texas!
Illustration by Doug Potter

Despite recent trends toward greenness and climate-change consciousness being at an all-time high, the fact remains that Texas emits more globe-warming carbon dioxide than any other state in the nation, by a long shot. In fact, Texas belches more CO2 than every nation in the world except the U.S., China, Russia, Japan, India, and Germany. Though it has been reported on these pages before, a recent Associated Press analysis shows that Texas emits nearly 1.5 trillion pounds of CO2 annually, more than the next two-largest polluters, California and Pennsylvania, combined. While about a third of the CO2 comes from transportation (with our asinine regional road-building boom sure to fuel the fire for years to come), close to 40% of Texas' greenhouse gases come from electricity generation -- to wit, the production of cheap electricity from high-carbon-content coal.

Attacking the area's foremost coal-burning threat, greens, community groups, and a gaggle of local and city governments have vowed to fight TXU's gigantic Oak Grove coal power plant, under construction 115 miles northeast of Austin. Oak Grove will burn lignite, among the most carbon-rich types of coal around. On its first day, it would be among the worst CO2 emitters in the county. The Texas Clean Cities Coalition, a broad anti-coal organization claiming to represent more than 7 million Texans and to which Austin indirectly belongs, has filed suit in state district court to overturn Oak Grove's air permit, controversially granted last month.

Speaking of TXU, the Dallas-based utility topped the worst polluters list in the Environmental Integrity Project's annual Dirty Kilowatts report, which tracks the nation's filthiest power plants. The EIP warns that global warming pollution from large, old, and inefficient plants -- like TXU's Martin Lake and Monticello plants, both ranked among the nation's overall dirtiest and worst CO2 polluters -- continues largely unchecked and could rise 34% nationally by 2030. TXU said it plans to invest $400 million in smog- and mercury-pollution controls for its fleet but has no plans to take the two aforementioned coal burners off-line or cut their CO2 output. As Congress moves closer to regulating carbon emissions, the EIP criticizes many utilities' race to permit new coal plants, urging legislators to reject utilities' anticipated pleas to have their dirty, old plants grandfathered or exempted from new carbon caps. Prominent congressional Dems have vowed no mercy. Let's hope their environmental resolve is stronger than their commitment to end the war.

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