22 Of The Top 25 CO2 Emitting Congressional Districts In 2009 Were Republican

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"22 Of The Top 25 CO2 Emitting Congressional Districts In 2009 Were Republican"


Here’s a factoid that people following the politics of energy may find interesting, but certainly not shocking: Of the top 25 CO2 emitting Congressional districts in 2009, 22 were Republican. That’s according to data released by the Center for Global Development, which tracked emissions from 60,000 power plants in the U.S. and around the world.

The top five CO2 emitting districts were all Republican, with percentage of fossil-based electricity in those areas ranging between 91 percent and 100 percent.

Given this trend, it’s not surprising that the National Republican platform on energy is almost entirely about supporting more fossil fuels — particularly coal — while completely ignoring the threat of climate change. The platform was just released this morning:

Coal is a low-cost and abundant energy source with hundreds of years of supply. We look toward the private sector’s development of new, state-of-the-art coal-fired plants that will be low-cost, environmentally responsible, and efficient. We also encourage research and development of advanced technologies in this sector, including coal-to-liquid, coal gasification, and related technologies for enhanced oil recovery. The current Administration—with a President who publicly threatened to bankrupt anyone who builds a coal-powered plant—seems determined to shut down coal production in the United States, even though there is no cost-effective substitute for it or for the hundreds of thousands of jobs that go with it as the nation’s largest source of electricity generation.

We will end the EPA’s war on coal and encourage the increased safe development in all regions of the nation’s coal resources, the jobs it produces, and the affordable, reliable energy that it provides for America. Further, we oppose any and all cap and trade legislation.

In fact, leading center-right economists determined in 2011 that “Coal-Fired Power Plants Have Air Pollution Damages Larger Than Their Value Added.” Factoring in the health and environmental impacts of burning coal would add “close to 17.8 cents/KWh of electricity generated.”

And a leading international energy economist, Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency, recently warned that continuing use of coal and other carbon-intensive resources would have dramatic consequences: “As each year passes without clear signals to drive investment in clean energy, the ‘lock-in’ of high-carbon infrastructure is making it harder and more expensive to meet our energy security and climate goals,” he said.

In other words, we don’t have much time. We urgently need to start making smart decisions about cutting our use of fossil fuels. But warnings from some of the smartest scientists and economists on the planet don’t have much influence on the Republican energy plan.

The Republican platform parallels Mitt Romney’s energy plan released last week, which focuses very heavily on fossil fuel development — mostly oil.

However, polls continue to show that a vast majority of Americans support transitioning away from fossil fuels, support action on climate change, and are willing to put a price on carbon in order to reduce emissions. That could be one reason why Obama is beating Romney in polls on energy issues. According to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, 49 percent of Americans believe Obama has a better energy plan than Romney. This follows a USA Today/Gallup poll that showed Obama with a 13-point lead over Romney on energy.

In an interview released this week, Al Gore summed up the feeling of many onlookers after the Romney campaign and the Republican party released their energy plans to continue unfettered use of fossil fuels: “If the Romney-Ryan ticket were to win … I would fear for the future of our environmental policy…. I would be very concerned about what they do.”

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8 Responses to 22 Of The Top 25 CO2 Emitting Congressional Districts In 2009 Were Republican

  1. John Hollenberg says:

    “We look toward the private sector’s development of new, state-of-the-art hangmans noose that will be low-cost, environmentally responsible, and efficient.”

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    Interesting map, Stephen, thanks. It’s worth noting that the big coal plants are located in rural areas, with uneducated populations, whose jobs are being held hostage.

    Not all of these residents are supporters. There have been rallies against mountaintop removal in West Virginia, and angry protests over autism, birth defects, and lung disease among Navajos in the Four Corners area.

    Local press doesn’t cover this much, so opponents have few allies. In Oregon, climate damaging clearcuts from Agent Orange were documented to cause miscarriages and birth defects. Nothing changed for years.

    This kind of activity kills people, and we need the courts to step up. As mixed as we all feel about Obama, further Republican takeover of our federal judiciary would be a catastrophe.

  3. David B says:

    This is a bit unfair.. where were the top 25 fossil energy *consuming* districts in the country? It’s quite reasonable to expect that we would produce CO2 in rural areas, whereas consumption would take place in cities. And we know how the politics break down along that axis. Seems like the pot calling the kettle black to me.

    • Chris Winter says:

      As Joe Romm points out in a post linked to this one, an April 2012 poll found that 75 percent of Americans favor shifting to low-carbon or zero-carbon energy. That particular poll doesn’t break the results down along party lines, but I’m sure that Republicans would poll the other way.

      The question, of course, is whether these Republican voters are leading on energy policy issues, or are being led. I think it’s clear from the actions of their current leadership (as well as from books like What’s the Matter with Kansas?) that the latter is the case. In other words, the GOP leadership is more in tune with large campaign contributors than with their nominal constituents.

      Thus I don’t see any unfairness in pointing out that power in strongly Republican districts comes almost exclusively from fossil fuels. I also expect that plants in those districts tend to be older and dirtier. Progressive* leadership could be working on changing that; but the leaders of one party aren’t much interested. These data show us (again) which party that is.

      *Here I use “progressive” in a non-political sense.

  4. Chris says:

    Republicans really are full of hot air!

  5. frank M says:

    David B. touches upon a good point. This article, and the data it links to, show the top sources from “power plants.” It doesn’t show the top sources of CO2 emissions as it implies. For example, what are the numbers if you add up automobile emissions? In California, that’s a significant chunk of emissions. What are the emissions from upstream heavy crude oil and gas production/refining? In California again, we’re talking millions of metric tonnes per year. Maybe the numbers still break down the same, but, as written, the story is not reporting what the data source is reporting.

    • Chris Winter says:

      Yes, other point sources of CO2 are important. They also include cement plants. But I think power plants are more widespread than other point sources, and thus their CO2 emissions in any district is probably a useful indicator of political leaders’ interest in controlling CO2. Confounding factors exist, of course. The age of the plants is one.

      Then there are the distributed sources like automobiles. These too are an important part of the problem. But I question whether their emissions shed any light on political leaning.

  6. BillD says:

    Coal plants are ok as long as they develop these high tech highly efficient methods for removing pollution before they build the plants. Let’s see whether markets still find coal a low cost option after 99% of the CO2, soot and mercury are removed. I even think that it’s ok for some government support for the needed research, although Republicans would probably be against that.