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Iowa carbon emissions rise despite wind power

Iowa has bucked a national trend and increased its energy-related carbon dioxide emissions over the past decade despite the growth of the state’s wind industry.

The carbon intensity of Iowa’s energy supply fell by 14.3 percent from 2000 to 2009, more than any other state, according to new data from the Energy Information Administration. That growth reflects the growth of wind power generation over the decade, said Nathaniel Baer, energy program director for the Iowa Environmental Council. South Dakota showed the next largest decline at 13.9 percent. Nationally, carbon intensity fell by 3.3 percent. Wind power now accounts for 20 percent of Iowa’s electrical generation.

But Iowa’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose 7.5 percent from 2000 to 2009 while falling nationally by 7.4 percent, according to the EIA data. Only Nebraska at 13.3 percent, Colorado at 10.5 percent and Arizona at 9.5 percent had larger increases, the EIA said. Carbon dioxide is the most abundant of the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change.

“We’re still using too much energy and we’re using it too inefficiently,” said Baer. “Our electric utilities are doing more and more on this issue, energy efficiency, but clearly this report indicates there is a significant amount of work to be done.” Slightly more than half of Iowa’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are from coal as opposed to petroleum or natural gas.