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States doing the most for a clean energy future

  • States doing the most for a clean energy future

    If the pace of greenhouse gas emissions continues, climate change will endanger people around the world. Within the U.S., wildfires will become larger and more frequent, storms and sea-level rise will transform coasts, and farmers will struggle to grow crops during intense heat waves. Some of these changes have already begun.

    While the U.S. faces many of climate change’s biggest threats, it’s also uniquely positioned to do something about it—the U.S. Department of Energy reports that the country emits more carbon dioxide than every other country except China. For many state lawmakers, this is a call to arms. They’ve begun to lower their states’ emissions and infuse their grids with renewable energy. Others have been slow to change. Political disagreements, fear of cost, and other pressing policy issues can take precedence over ensuring a clean energy future.

    In order to rank all 50 states and D.C. by their efforts to run on clean energy, Stacker consulted data from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) 2018 State Energy Scorecard. ACEEE ranked the states on their local policies in six areas: state government, utilities, transportation, heat and power, building energy efficiency, and appliance standards.

    Many states incorporated cleaner energy across the board, despite working under a federal government that has been moving policy in the opposite direction. The Trump Administration has taken steps to roll back federal car emissions standards, for example; meanwhile, states like California have pushed back and implemented or strengthened their own standards. Many states have improved their energy efficiency. Others have built new systems to capture renewable energy, like Rhode Island when it built the nation’s first offshore wind farm.

    Every state has room to cut back on its energy waste and transition to renewables—even Massachusetts, the highest-ranking state, which still uses more energy per capita than other states.

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  • #51. Wyoming

    - Overall score: 4.5 (out of 50 points)
    - State government score: 2 (out of 5; 1.5 points below national median)
    - Buildings score: 0 (out of 8; 5 points below national median)
    - Combined heat and power score: 0 (out of 4; 1.5 points below national median)
    - Utilities score: 1 (out of 20; 4 points below national median)
    - Transportation score: 1.5 (out of 10; 1.5 points below national median)
    - Appliance standards score: 0 (out of 3; 0 points below national median)

    Wyoming is the epitome of coal country. As the nation’s top coal producer, the state’s transition to renewable energy would mean a dramatic change in the way of life for its citizens. Wyoming lawmakers are preventing such a change through laws like the recently passed Senate File 159, which incentivizes coal fire plant owners and potential buyers to keep these plants up and running.

  • #49. North Dakota (tie)

    - Overall score: 5.5 (out of 50 points)
    - State government score: 0.5 (out of 5; 3 points below national median)
    - Buildings score: 3 (out of 8; 2 points below national median)
    - Combined heat and power score: 0.5 (out of 4; 1 points below national median)
    - Utilities score: 0 (out of 20; 5 points below national median)
    - Transportation score: 1.5 (out of 10; 1.5 points below national median)
    - Appliance standards score: 0 (out of 3; 0 points below national median)

    The Dakota Access Pipeline, which moves 570,000 barrels of petroleum per day, became famous when protesters on Standing Rock Sioux reservation tried to halt its construction in 2016. This pipeline is just a small part of the state’s petroleum boom: During the past decade, North Dakota has multiplied its petroleum production by more than six times. Not only does the state’s economy rely heavily on this non-renewable energy—the state’s utilities don’t spend any money on electricity efficiency programs, accounting for its low ranking.

  • #49. West Virginia (tie)

    - Overall score: 5.5 (out of 50 points)
    - State government score: 1 (out of 5; 2.5 points below national median)
    - Buildings score: 3 (out of 8; 2 points below national median)
    - Combined heat and power score: 0.5 (out of 4; 1 points below national median)
    - Utilities score: -0.5 (out of 20; 5.5 points below national median)
    - Transportation score: 1.5 (out of 10; 1.5 points below national median)
    - Appliance standards score: 0 (out of 3; 0 points below national median)

    From West Virginia’s windy mountains to its rivers, the state has huge renewable energy potential. It remains mostly untapped in favor of coal. The state’s clean energy policies have stagnated too. No energy-efficiency policies have been passed recently, which caused the state’s utilities score to dip below zero.

  • #46. Kansas (tie)

    - Overall score: 7.5 (out of 50 points)
    - State government score: 1.5 (out of 5; 2 points below national median)
    - Buildings score: 3.5 (out of 8; 1.5 points below national median)
    - Combined heat and power score: 0.5 (out of 4; 1 points below national median)
    - Utilities score: 0.5 (out of 20; 4.5 points below national median)
    - Transportation score: 1.5 (out of 10; 1.5 points below national median)
    - Appliance standards score: 0 (out of 3; 0 points below national median)

    Kansas gets more than a third of its energy from wind, which is the most of any state. Where it leads on wind, though, it falls behind in other clean energy sectors. For instance, it fails to meet its potential for solar power, which is as great as Florida’s.

  • #46. Louisiana (tie)

    - Overall score: 7.5 (out of 50 points)
    - State government score: 2.5 (out of 5; 1 points below national median)
    - Buildings score: 2 (out of 8; 3 points below national median)
    - Combined heat and power score: 1 (out of 4; 0.5 points below national median)
    - Utilities score: 0.5 (out of 20; 4.5 points below national median)
    - Transportation score: 1.5 (out of 10; 1.5 points below national median)
    - Appliance standards score: 0 (out of 3; 0 points below national median)

    In Erath, La., 13 natural gas pipelines meet at Henry Hub — the nation’s busiest natural gas center. The pipes carry gas throughout the state and country, establishing Louisiana as a key player in the natural gas industry. Although non-profits rebuilt many energy-efficient buildings after Hurricane Katrina, and companies have begun building large solar farms in the state, it continues to fall behind in clean energy.

  • #46. South Dakota (tie)

    - Overall score: 7.5 (out of 50 points)
    - State government score: 0.5 (out of 5; 3 points below national median)
    - Buildings score: 3.5 (out of 8; 1.5 points below national median)
    - Combined heat and power score: 0.5 (out of 4; 1 points below national median)
    - Utilities score: 2.5 (out of 20; 2.5 points below national median)
    - Transportation score: 0.5 (out of 10; 2.5 points below national median)
    - Appliance standards score: 0 (out of 3; 0 points below national median)

    Updating dishwashers, sealing the air space below doors, and switching to LED lights—these types of changes may not seem like a big deal, but they’re how South Dakota has made its biggest strides toward energy efficiency. The state’s utility companies offer rebates and loans to people who make these energy-saving changes. The state lags behind in most other areas, like transportation and utilities.

  • #44. Mississippi (tie)

    - Overall score: 8 (out of 50 points)
    - State government score: 2.5 (out of 5; 1 points below national median)
    - Buildings score: 1.5 (out of 8; 3.5 points below national median)
    - Combined heat and power score: 0.5 (out of 4; 1 points below national median)
    - Utilities score: 1.5 (out of 20; 3.5 points below national median)
    - Transportation score: 2 (out of 10; 1 points below national median)
    - Appliance standards score: 0 (out of 3; 0 points below national median)

    Although Mississippi houses the largest single-unit power reactor, the Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station, the state continues to rely mostly on natural gas. It has cut back on natural gas consumption through a series of energy-saving projects called the Quick Start program, which launched in 2014. Still, this state has a lot of room for improvement.

  • #44. Nebraska (tie)

    - Overall score: 8 (out of 50 points)
    - State government score: 2.5 (out of 5; 1 points below national median)
    - Buildings score: 4 (out of 8; 1 points below national median)
    - Combined heat and power score: 0 (out of 4; 1.5 points below national median)
    - Utilities score: 0.5 (out of 20; 4.5 points below national median)
    - Transportation score: 1 (out of 10; 2 points below national median)
    - Appliance standards score: 0 (out of 3; 0 points below national median)

    Vast farmlands and extreme weather require a lot of energy, which is why Nebraska is among the top energy consumers in the nation. These features also give the state great potential for wind-powered electricity. So far, the state has made only modest efforts to tap into wind and cut back on energy consumption.

  • #43. Alabama

    - Overall score: 9.5 (out of 50 points)
    - State government score: 3 (out of 5; 0.5 points below national median)
    - Buildings score: 5.5 (out of 8; 0.5 points above national median)
    - Combined heat and power score: 0 (out of 4; 1.5 points below national median)
    - Utilities score: 0 (out of 20; 5 points below national median)
    - Transportation score: 1 (out of 10; 2 points below national median)
    - Appliance standards score: 0 (out of 3; 0 points below national median)

    Alabama’s industry sector makes everything from planes and cars to food and coal, and it all needs to be shipped out to buyers. That’s part of the reason that about a quarter of Alabama’s energy is used for transportation. While the state has passed laws to cut down on freight emissions, there’s room to do better.

  • #41. Alaska (tie)

    - Overall score: 10 (out of 50 points)
    - State government score: 4 (out of 5; 0.5 points above national median)
    - Buildings score: 1.5 (out of 8; 3.5 points below national median)
    - Combined heat and power score: 1 (out of 4; 0.5 points below national median)
    - Utilities score: 1 (out of 20; 4 points below national median)
    - Transportation score: 2.5 (out of 10; 0.5 points below national median)
    - Appliance standards score: 0 (out of 3; 0 points below national median)

    For Alaska’s vast size, it has a small population—but it uses a lot of energy per person. State legislators tackled this problem in 2010 through a law to reduce per-capita energy use 15% by 2020. They never translated this goal into specific regulations, so the state continues to fall short.

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