North Carolina's greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere have risen 39 percent since 1990 as the state's appetite for energy has ballooned.
That's according to Environment North Carolina, an advocacy group that helped compile the global warming data from federal government research. Environment North Carolina, based in Raleigh, issued its conclusions today as part of a concerted advocacy effort across the country to issue regional reports on greenhouse gas emissions.
The increase is caused by more cars on the road burning more fuel, and more electricity being generated by the state's coal-burning power plants. Transportation and electricity account for the majority of carbon dioxide emissions that are believed to be the major contributor to global warming.
Still, this state is not the worst offender. Arizona's greenhouse gas emissions increased by 61 percent, while Texas belched more than four times the amount of heat-trapping gases than did this state. North Carolina ranked 13th in the nation for the emissions.
The government data comes from the U.S. Energy Information Administration's "State Energy Consumption, Price and Expenditure Estimates," and is recent through 2007.
Carbon dioxide is the only major pollutant that can not be controlled with currently available technology.
Electric utilities in this state have spent billions of dollars to trap and contain other pollutants -- such as sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides and particulates -- in response to North Carolina's Clean Smokestacks Act. The 2002 law requires the state's coal-burning plants to cut ozone-forming emissions by three-fourths by 2012.
Coal is used to generate more than half the state's electricity. The state's 45 coal-burning units generate more than 12,000 megawatts of electricity, equivalent to about 12 nuclear plants. However, both Progress Energy and Duke Energy plan on mothballing some older coal plants as the companies shift to modern facilities and alternative fuel sources.
Even as energy consumption has increased, North Carolina's air quality this summer was the cleanest it's been in more than three decades, according to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. That's in large part due to the state's smokestacks law and other environmental legislation.
Federal lawmakers have set their sights on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Proposals making their way through Congress would require states to cut the emissions by more than 80 percent in the coming decades.