Texas belches CO2 as other states reduce emissions

September 25th, 2008

What do the following states have in common?

Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

They have all teamed up through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to implement a cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the RGGI auctions off its first CO2 emissions allowances today under the “first mandatory, market-based CO2 emissions reduction program in the United States.” Likewise, on the West Coast states like California already have their own greenhouse gas reduction programs underway.

States are taking these steps and implementing these programs because of inaction in Washington. Today’s New York Times opines that, “[u]ntil Washington takes more responsibility for addressing global warming, the states must lead.”

Where’s Texas on this stuff? Why isn’t the second-most populous state in the nation a leader in this area? We’re not even on the map. Last legislative session, the Texas House voted against even creating a task force to examine the impact of climate change – which is impacted by CO2 emissions. Fifty-two house members voted for the creation of the task force. Eighty-eight voted against it.

Texas alone is the 8th largest emitter of CO2 in the world. Our state contributes almost as much CO2 into the atmosphere as Canada. Actions of states like Vermont, with its small population and limited amount of industry, won’t have a big impact on CO2 emissions. But if Texas did something, there could be tremendous impact. Perhaps the solution is a cap-and-trade system for Texas. Perhaps Texas can bring creativity and independent thinking to bear on finding solutions other than a cap-and-trade system. Our state has been an energy leader for more than a hundred years — we’ve got the talent and capacity to tackle problems like CO2 emissions and to make a tremendous difference.

Bigger, nastier hurricanes like Ike are one result of climate change caused by CO2 emissions, according to a recent study by Nature. Texas officials — and leaders in Washington, D.C. — can’t continue to ignore our mounting climate change crisis, nor the disastrous changes to the weather and the environment that are resulting.

On Election Day, and when the Texas Legislature convenes in Austin in January, Texans need to send a message that we’re not going keep our heads in the sands as hurricanes are made worse by toxic emissions from Texas cars and industry. Texas League of Conservation Voters has endorsed a slate of candidates and incumbents who will stand up for clean air.