That’s a lot of carbon

As SciGuy put it, we’re number one in carbon emissions here in Harris County.

The first-ever analysis of county-by-county carbon dioxide emissions in the United States found that Harris County, which emits 18.6 million tons of CO2 per year, narrowly edged Los Angeles for the top spot.

“Some regions will see this analysis as an excuse to point fingers, but I don’t really view it that way,” said Kevin Gurney, an assistant professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences at Purdue University who led the study. “This gives us an opportunity to improve the situation.”


Harris County catapulted to the top of the carbon dioxide list, which tallied emissions from all fossil fuel consumption through the year 2002, because of its large industrial base.

Industry, including petroleum refining and chemical manufacturing, produced 54 percent of the emissions, according to the study. Motor vehicles were responsible for 26 percent; power plants 13.5 percent; and residential and commercial sources 6.5 percent.

In contrast, more than half of Los Angeles’ CO2 output was emitted by cars and trucks.

“Somebody has to supply the country with its gasoline and petroleum needs, and Harris County and its surrounding areas have decided that it may as well be us,” said John Nielsen-Gammon, the state climatologist and a professor of meteorology at Texas A&M University.

“The county’s high emissions ranking also comes from being a large population center nearly self-contained inside a single large county.”

The new analysis represents the first effort to break carbon dioxide emissions down on a county basis. Previous statewide analyses found that Texas emits more carbon dioxide than any other state, and if it were a country, would emit more than all but six nations in the world.

As a result, the county-by-county study didn’t come as a big surprise to some analysts.

“In part, this is the cost of conducting the business we conduct in the Houston area,” said Elena Marks, Mayor Bill White’s health policy director.

Residents can do their part by installing energy-efficient CFL lightbulbs, better insulating their homes and using public transit or taking other actions to reduce personal CO2 emissions, Marks said.

“People shouldn’t feel guilty about this,” she said, “but they should pay attention to the data and realize that we all have a part to play in reducing our carbon footprint.”

I think the attitudes expressed by Gurney and Marks here are perfectly reasonable. This is an opportunity for improvement, and we should try to take reasonable steps to do so. The more we do of that, and the less griping we do about it, the better off we’ll be.

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2 Responses to That’s a lot of carbon

  1. kevin whited says:

    Hard to imagine anyone who’s opposed to reasonable!

  2. Prove Our Democracy with Paper Ballots says:


    Gore says laws must change


    Despite the success of his film An Inconvenient Truth and last year’s Live Earth concerts in raising awareness, the former US Vice President believes little has changed where it counts and the situation is even more urgent.

    And he warns that while individual efforts such as changing to low-energy lightbulbs are important, it is more significant for world leaders to change laws to stop pollution pouring into the atmosphere and affecting the climate.


    “The idea that individuals in their own activities are going to change this is wrong.

    “But when they do change they are likely to get behind the movement and that is very important because it is going to be changes in law that will ultimately solve this problem.”


    There is nothing reasonable about being the worst in the world due to an anti-science bias and “voluntary” anti-pollution laws.

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