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After Energy Production, Transportation Represents Next Green Challenge

U.S. Department of Energy

When it comes to greenhouse gases, much of the attention is being paid to energy production. But since 2017, the transportation sector has actually been the biggest emitter nationwide.

That can partly be attributed to an increase in renewable energy production standards in some states, like Nevada, which released its emission report last month. The state found that Nevadans contribute 25% fewer greenhouse gas emissions per capita than the rest of the nation.

Nationally, 36.7% of overall emissions come from cars, trucks, buses and other vehicles, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Lauren Rosenblatt, a principal at energy and transportation consultancy e-centricity, says a transition to electric vehicles could provide a secondary source of power in emergency situations.

"The resiliency benefits are a great promise of transportation electrification, because the distributed storage becomes a source of energy when there’s an outage," she said.

Say a hospital suffers a power outage. Rosenblatt says theoretically, it could pull energy from electric vehicles that are charging in the parking lot.

The Mountain West is a bit of a mixed bag. Every state in the region is in the lower half for transportation emissions. But, that's likely due to lower population levels in some states. And many states, including Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and Utah are heavy energy producers.

When looking at overall emissions per capita, Wyoming is the highest overall emitter in the country by far. In 2016, the state had 103.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person. The next highest, North Dakota, had 71.8.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center For the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Noah Glick is a former content director and host at KUNR Public Radio.
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