The United States is the world’s second largest greenhouse gas emitter. The country announced in 2017 its plans to back out of the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to fight global warming and its consequences by keeping the rise in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial levels. While some state governments have set their own goals to reduce emissions in line with the international agreement, others are doing little to improve their environmental footprint.
Less eco-friendly states don’t enact very aggressive local restrictions, if any, on energy use for its businesses and residents. Using data from the U.S. Environmental Information Administration, 24/7 Tempo created an index of air pollution levels, state electricity generation and efficiency policy, and employment in green jobs to identify the least eco-friendly states in the country. For a different point of view, these are the most eco-friendly states in America.
Electricity generation was selected for the ranking because, as a secondary energy source, it is generated from the conversion of primary sources of energy such as coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear power and other natural sources. The other secondary source is hydrogen, which is not used often because it’s not safer and it takes more energy to produce.
The burning of fossil fuels is one of the primary causes not just of greenhouse gas emissions, but also of other forms of air pollution and environmental harm.
To determine the least eco-friendly states, 24/7 Tempo created an index of five energy and pollution-related measures: 1) The share of electricity generated in the state coming from renewable sources. 2) State policies related to energy efficiency. 3) Air pollution levels 4) The share of jobs in green industries. 5) The share of electricity generated from oil, coal, or natural gas combustion.
Average daily density of fine particulate matter is measured in micrograms per cubic meter and is from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program, and is for 2014, the latest year for which data is available. Electricity generation by source is for 2017 and comes from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The share of jobs in green industries by state comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages and is for 2017.
Each state’s energy efficiency policy score is from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s 2018 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which measures state and regional policy on transportation, utility, buildings, and other energy efficiency standards.