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Maine’s carbon footprint shrinking

The Portland Press Herald reported last week that Maine is “out ahead in race to reduce carbon footprint.”

Maine’s carbon footprint shrank from 2004 to 2007 by a larger proportion than any other state, according to a national study to be released today.

Carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas dropped 15 percent in the state during the three-year period, it says. Thirty-three states, and the country as a whole, continued to experience emission increases during the period.

…Overall, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels increased 19 percent from 1990 to 2007, although the rate of increase slowed dramatically starting in 2004.

Maine’s emissions rose 5 percent from 1990 to 2007. But the state is one of 17 that saw emissions drop from 2004 to 2007. And, while New York and Texas saw larger overall drops, Maine experienced the largest percentage decline, the report said.

Kokkinos said the decline reflects Maine’s growing efforts to promote clean power production and to weatherize homes. “Non-hydroelectric renewable energy generating capacity increased 7 percent from 2004 to 2007,” she said. Most of that increase was from wind power.

Kokkinos said efforts to fight sprawl – and reduce motor vehicle travel – also contributed.

However, we can’t take too much credit for the drop.

Environmentalists and state officials welcome the Maine trend, which they said was the result of weather and economic factors as well as efforts to fight global warming. But, they say, emissions will have to drop a lot lower, both in Maine and nationwide, to avoid climate-change impacts such as rising sea levels and warmer, wetter weather.

“While that’s great, it’s also not enough. We need to keep going,” said Katie Kokkinos, an advocate with Environment Maine. “The overall picture is, yes, we’re taking initiative and moving forward, but it’s still too slowly.”

…Because of Maine’s reliance on heating oil, warmer winters also likely had a role in the emissions decline, environmentalists and state officials said.

David Littell, commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, said Maine is clearly moving in the right direction.

“We are seeing progress on reducing Maine’s climate emissions,” he said in an e-mail reply while attending an out-of-state climate conference this week.

Dylan Voorhees, clean energy project director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said the state’s policy efforts to reduce energy use and global warming emissions had relatively small impacts between 2004 and 2007 and that other factors played a bigger role. But, he said, the drop is good news.

“It will be interesting to see how those trends play out,” he said. “Emissions may be going down for reasons we can’t take a lot of credit for, but we are adopting policies that could push them down further going forward.”

Returning to 1990 emission levels in Maine by next year – a goal set by the state Legislature – now looks more possible than it did a few years ago, he said, adding a caution.

“Getting back to 1990 emissions is like step one of the 12-step process,” he said.

Read the rest of the article.

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