While the US ponders whether to curb greenhouse gases, several states are pushing ahead with plans that already are bearing fruit.
At least 21 states and the District of Columbia are on track to create 46,000 megawatts of renewable power by 2020, eliminating 108 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide emissions a year that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, according to an analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). While that's a drop in the bucket of 6 billion tons of CO2 emissions that vehicles and power plants spew out annually, it is beginning to have an impact.
"These new state standards are kicking in right now," says Jeff Deyette, an energy analyst with the UCS, based in Cambridge, Mass. "We're seeing states like Texas, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin that are meeting or exceeding their goals to build clean energy sources rather than dirty" ones.
Already, states have trimmed an estimated 20 million metric tons of CO2 emissions through renewable-energy portfolio standards (RPS), which require that a certain percentage of power come from renewable sources.
"Renewable standards are one of the biggest steps we can take to cut global-warming pollution in the next 10 years," says Alison Cassady, author of a new US Public Interest Research Group report released earlier this month.
Nationwide, the rate of growth of CO2 emissions has slowed, according to her analysis. Emissions from power plants and transportation rose 18 percent between 1990 and 2004. Between 2000 and 2005, they grew only 2 percent, mostly due to a shift to less-carbon-intensive natural-gas power plants.