ST. LOUIS — Since 1990, the U.S. government has talked about reducing carbon dioxide, the chief global warming gas. But since then, Missouri has gone the opposite way.
Instead of cutting back, Missouri spewed more carbon dioxide per person in 2003 — nearly 53,000 pounds per resident — than in 1990, the year the Clean Air Act was amended.
Missouri has the fifth-highest increase in per-person carbon dioxide emissions from 1990 to 2003, the latest year for which figures are available, government statistics show.
They have gone up higher than 44 states and the District of Columbia, according to an Associated Press analysis of state-by-state 2003 carbon dioxide emissions released last month by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Missouri increased its per-person emissions 15 percent between 1990 and 2003, while the nation’s as a whole stayed about the same. Overall, Missouri’s carbon dioxide emissions rose 32 percent in that period, while its population grew 12 percent.
The likely culprit is coal, which, when burned, produces more carbon dioxide per energy produced than any other commonly used American fuel source. Missouri is among the states that depend most on coal as a power source.
Missouri ranked 10th in the U.S. for megawatt output of coal-fired power per person in 2006.
“Like it or not, Missouri uses coal for power generation,” said Roger Walker, who heads the Regulatory Environmental Group for Missouri, a business group that focuses on environmental and energy issues.
He says if the state wants to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, it must resort to energy conservation, nuclear power and carbon sequestration — which involves storing carbon dioxide emissions below ground.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” Walker said. “It’s going to take long-term planning. You don’t build nuclear and wind overnight.”
Fredrick Palmer, senior vice president of St. Louis-based Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company, said at an energy conference here in April that the industry doesn’t yet have the technology for near-zero emissions, “but we’re close to it.”
Missouri is taking some steps to reduce CO2 emissions.
The state Department of Natural Resources has been promoting more renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Missouri recently joined a multistate climate registry to measure and track greenhouse gas emissions — the first step for any future voluntary or mandatory reduction strategy.
“We’re looking at it very closely,” said Leanne Tippett Mosby, DNR’s deputy director of the Division of Environmental Quality. “ ... This has been put on our policy agenda.”