The University of Texas at Austin
  • Director of politics project quoted by AP

    By Tara Chandler
    Published: Jan. 24, 2008
    Director

    Everything’s big in Texas — big pickup trucks, big SUVs and the state’s big carbon footprint, too. Texans’ fondness for large, manly vehicles has helped make the Lone Star State the biggest carbon polluter in the nation. The headquarters state of America’s oil industry spewed 670 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2003, enough that Texas would rank seventh in the world if it were its own country, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The amount is more than that of California and Pennsylvania — the second- and third-ranking states — combined. A multitude of factors contribute to the carbon output, among them: Texas’ 19 coal-burning power plants; a heavy concentration of refineries and chemical plants; a lack of mass transit; and a penchant among ranchers and urban cowboys alike for brawny, gas-guzzling trucks — sometimes to haul things, but often just to look Texas tough. Debbie Howden, an Austin real estate agent, said her family of six has two pickup trucks, three SUVs, and no apologies. “I would definitely put size and safety over the emissions thing,” said Howden, 55. She calls their high fuel bills a “necessary evil.” Anthony Nguyen attended the famously liberal University of California at Berkeley but drives a black Nissan Frontier pickup handed down from his dad, a liquor store owner near Houston. Nguyen said his father hauled liquor around in the truck, but he admitted he has no practical use for its large bed. “I think it’s the idea that in Texas, everything is bigger,” said Nguyen, 20. “I grew up here, and I think it’s pretty cool.” While states such as like California and New York are moving quickly to address global warming, the issue has prompted only scattered calls for reforms here. GOP leaders in Texas have refused to make emissions reduction a priority, and Republican Gov. Rick Perry has expressed doubt as to whether global warming is even a manmade problem. Texas political leaders read “environmental protection as government activism” and want no part of it, said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. With all the don’t-mess-with-Texas swagger he can muster, Perry has called Al Gore’s mouth the leading source of carbon dioxide. As for the state’s greenhouse gas ranking, Perry’s administration makes no apologies.

    The Associated Press
    Texas Is Biggest Carbon Polluter
    (Jan. 16)

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