New 'greenest states' rankings give Idaho props, knocks Wyoming
As U.S. markets and policies move away from fossil fuels and toward renewables like wind and solar, a new ranking of the nation’s "greenest" states has only three Mountain West states cracking the top 25.
The rankings were conducted by ConsumerAffairs, which used 2021 data to compare states based on factors including greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy generation, and recycling practices. The consumer information site concluded that the nation’s greenest state is Vermont, where much of the electricity generated, and supplied from out-of-state, comes from hydroelectric dams.
In the Mountain West, the lone state in the top 10 was seventh-ranked Idaho, where roughly 70% of in-state power generation comes from renewable sources – mainly hydroelectric dams. The state also produced some of the nation’s lowest carbon emissions per capita (1.18 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2e, per person) and CO2e emission rates (272 pounds per megawatt-hour, or MWh, of electricity).
Justin Martino, managing editor for home services at ConsumerAffairs, said shifting from fossil fuels to renewables is more important than ever for every state.
“The world is on fire,” said Martino, pointing to the recent Canadian wildfire smoke choking the East Coast as another example of the consequences of climate change. “We have to do something or there's not going to be anything left for our future generations. If you can switch your coal-fired power generation to something that is more environmentally friendly, then you have made some very, very major steps there.”
That is not happening in Wyoming, which ranked dead last. In 2021, the Cowboy State – home to some of the largest coal mines in the world – produced carbon emission levels of 68.66 tons of CO2e per person, the highest amount in the U.S., and 1,847.4 pounds per MWh.
Aside from Idaho, only two other Mountain West states made the top half of the national rankings. Nevada (17th) generated 30.7% of its energy from renewable sources while producing 716.9 pounds of CO2e per MWh and 4.69 tons per person. Colorado (25th) had 32.7% of its energy from renewables with CO2e emission levels of 1,224.6 pounds per MWh and 5.92 tons per person.
Montana, right behind in 26th, had a significantly higher percentage of energy from renewables (51.3%, also largely thanks to hydropower), but the state’s ranking was lowered by its emission levels (11.61 tons of CO2e per person and 1,053 pounds per MWh).
New Mexico ranked 32nd and Utah 37th.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.