The 3 Most Polluting States

Who are the biggest carbon culprits in the nation?

Mar 2, 2014 at 11:20AM

In Texas, everything is bigger -- including pollution. New data released this week points to the most polluting states around, and you might be surprised by the top contenders.

Patriotic pollution?
The U.S. Energy Information Administration released its latest state-specific data on carbon dioxide emissions, and emissions are down nationwide. In 2011 (most recent data), U.S. emissions clocked in at 5,384 million metric tons, down 3% from the previous year, and 10% from 2007's record high. 

Natl Emissions

Source: Author, data from 

But those numbers aren't representative of our nation's notion to go green. Instead, they're a coinciding sign of a shrinking economy. A chart of U.S. GDP growth shows how much emissions and money-making coincide. In down years for CO2 emissions, GDP growth slid into the red:

US Real GDP Growth Chart

U.S. Real GDP Growth data by YCharts.

But while CO2 emissions have recently headed lower, some states are coughing out more carbon dioxide than others. Here are the top three carbon dioxide-emitting states, as measured by fossil fuel consumption.

1. Texas


Source: Flickr, Davidlohr Bueso. 

The Lonestar State pushed out a whopping 656 million metric tons of CO2 in 2011 -- almost twice that of its closest competitor. 

Taking a closer look at the data, it's not hard to see why. The main fossil fuel consumer is transportation, with petroleum products accounting for 184 million metric tons alone. That's more than New York state's total emissions. 

The state also relies on coal to power much of its electricity sector. One of the biggest carbon culprits around, coal added on 159 million metric tons to Texas' books. 

2. California


Source: Wikimedia Commons, Tewy. 

Sunny California has a dark side. Despite its position as the biggest solar state around, the Sunshine State can't quit its carbon habit. In 2011, California pumped out 346 million metric tons of CO2. And it's easy to understand why.

With 38 million Californians cramming in, this state has the largest population and largest economy of any in our nation.

California's electricity generation portfolio lets it get away with just 1.9 million metric tons from coal, but transportation once again proves to be this state's Achilles' heel. California residents and businesses clocked in a whopping 198 million metric tons to get from point A to point B. 


Source: Wikimedia Commons, Hepcat748

3. Pennsylvania
While Texas and California are emissions heavyweights, Pennsylvania's 235 million metric tons are nothing to laugh at. While some refer to Pennsylvania as the Keystone State, its alternative nickname of Coal State may be more accurate.

Just like Texas, carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants play a disproportionately large role in this state's polluting status. At 97.1 million metric tons, generation emissions from coal are around one-third higher than those of Pennsylvania's entire transportation sector. 

At the epicenter of the Marcellus Shale, natural gas emissions also contributed to or decreased this state's emissions, depending on how you look at it. Natural gas was the biggest emissions contributor for the state's residential and commercial sectors, and it came in just behind coal for industrial use. But since natural gas emits just 117 pounds of CO2 compared to coal's approximate 215 pounds, Texas and California could probably use some natural gas of their own. 

Cleaning up?
Texas, California, and Pennsylvania may be the biggest carbon emitters around, but their excess isn't always their own. The products of these states' economies move around our nation and world, making it difficult to point the finger at even the federal level. But as carbon emissions continue to become a growing concern, we should hope each state does its part to go green.

Cutting out coal
Record natural gas production is paving the way for our nation to move beyond coal. Finding the right plays while historic amounts of capital expenditures are flooding the industry will pad your investment nest egg while helping cut coal out of our economy.

For this reason, the Motley Fool is offering a comprehensive look at three energy companies set to soar during this transformation in the energy industry. To find out which three companies are spreading their wings, check out the special free report, "3 Stocks for the American Energy Bonanza." Don't miss out on this timely opportunity; click here to access your report -- it's absolutely free. 

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4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

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KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

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That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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