It’s All About the Carbon

Fossil fuels are all variations on carbon. Coal, crude oil, natural gas: when burned, they generate carbon dioxide, CO2, a greenhouse gas. So which states among the 50 generate the most CO2?

It depends on how you measure it. If we focus just on energy-related CO2 emissions, Texas is the worst in absolute terms. By a lot.

The amount of CO2 generated depends on population, number of automobiles, nature of industries, annual temperature range, housing density and a host of other factors. In absolute terms, those multiple factors combine to make Texas and California the worst emitters.

If we look at per capita emissions instead, the picture changes some.

Texas falls from first to 14th; California from second to 47th. Alaska jumps to 4th. How you look at the data really, really matters.

But looking at different views also reveals things that aren’t immediately apparent. For  example, what do the five highest emitters, measured per capita, have in common? Wyoming and West Virginia (coal), and North Dakota, Alaska and Louisiana (oil and gas) all produce a lot of fossil fuels. All are among the leading fossil fuel producers in the nation. In other words, it suggests fossil fuel production itself generates a lot of CO2 emissions.

WC recognizes that correlation does not mean causation, but it is suggestive. And among the suggestions is the idea that fossil fuel production is doubly bad for climate change.