Washington State’s carbon emissions fell 4.6% between 2010 and 2011, according to new numbers released by the Department of Ecology. Ecology officials jumped to take credit for the one-year decline and overall reduction between 2007 and 2011, claiming that the drop was “due to state actions that included requiring major utilities to get a portion of energy from renewable sources.” However, as the Washington Policy Center’s Todd Myers points out, Ecology’s claim does not quite match the facts.
Myers writes that the “data show neither Ecology or any public policy had anything to do with the decline and they should know that.” Washington managed to reduce carbon emissions by 9.75 percent between 2007 and 2011—“nearly half of that coming in the final year.” Comparatively, the United States “as a whole reduced emissions by nine percent despite having no policy on reducing carbon emissions.” As Myers points out, “the difference between Washington and the U.S. as a whole is negligible.”
But, that’s not all. The data also proves that, “until 2011, Washington’s rate of carbon reductions was actually slower than the U.S. as a whole.” Washington only managed to jump head in 2011. What happened to kick-start Washington’s rate of carbon reduction? Myers,
“Despite the claims from Ecology, the reduction is a result of a dramatic increase in hydroelectric power. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) notes that consumption of hydro power increased 34 percent between 2010 and 2011 due to above average snowpack.
“The EIA goes on to note that hydro power replaced natural gas and, ironically, wind energy. They wrote:
“Abundant hydroelectric supply also crowded out natural gas-fired generation compared to 2010 and previous years. Natural gas generation, for example, dropped almost to zero during the third week of May. In 2011, natural gas use for power generation in the Pacific Northwest was down 46%, or an annual average of 260 million cubic feet per day, relative to 2010 levels (see chart below). Other thermal electric power plants as well as wind generators in the region also curtailed supply in favor of hydroelectric generation.
“High snowpack that increased the availability of hydro power, not wind or other politically preferred energy sources, caused the one-year decline in Washington’s carbon emissions. Without that dramatic one-year increase in hydro power, Washington’s carbon emissions reductions would probably have been lower than the nation as a whole.”
The Department of Ecology’s claim of credit for Washington’s carbon emissions drop is troubling. Jay Inslee appears to have placed “virtually all of the authority” to create a cap-and-tax scheme in the hands of bureaucrats who are either “unaware that hydro caused the reduction in emissions” or are “simply taking credit for a high snowpack year and hoping nobody notices.” The two possibilities do not bode well for the future of responsible government in Washington.