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The Clean and Clear Winners

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Just released data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration on carbon dioxide emissions per state in 2005 shows that renewable energy initiatives do pay off. The 10 cleanest states based on per capita emissions—in order, the District of Columbia, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, California, Idaho, New York, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Washington—have aggressive renewable energy and/or efficiency programs.

Idaho emissions are so low because the state generates 78 percent of its electricity from hydroelectric dams. The other nine states have clean energy programs with measures such as renewable electricity standards that require utilities to provide a certain amount of electricity from wind, solar, geothermal, or other renewable energy sources. These nine states all have greenhouse gas emissions targets, too.

Even though many of the cleanest states only began their energy programs during the last few years, they are already lowering emissions and now produce one-third to three-fifths less CO2 pollution per person compared to the U.S. average, which is 21 metric tons per person annually.

The gap between the cleanest and dirtiest states is even wider. The 10 dirtiest states emit, on average, over five times as much carbon dioxide per capita as the 10 cleanest states. The 10 top emitters—in order, Wyoming, North Dakota, Alaska, West Virginia, Louisiana, Montana, Indiana, Kentucky, Alabama, and New Mexico—all produce or burn significant amounts of oil and/or coal.

This CO2 data indicates that renewable electricity standards, efficiency efforts, and pollution reduction programs successfully lower emissions. This is an important lesson for the next president and Congress as they debate energy and global warming proposals.

To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Katie Peters (economy, education, poverty, Half in Ten Education Fund)
202.741.6285 or

Print: Anne Shoup (foreign policy and national security, energy, LGBT issues, health care, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7146 or

Print: Crystal Patterson (immigration)
202.478.6350 or

Print: Madeline Meth (women's issues, Legal Progress, higher education)
202.741.6277 or

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Tanya Arditi
202.741.6258 or

TV: Lindsay Hamilton
202.483.2675 or

Radio: Chelsea Kiene
202.478.5328 or