SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Alaska one of the top greenhouse-gas-emitting states
Anchorage Daily News


January 22, 2008

Alaska pumps as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere as far more populous states such as Oregon and Connecticut, making it one of the top gas-emitting states per capita in the nation.

There are two big reasons for Alaska's output, according to a new state inventory of carbon emissions: big-jet transportation, including international cargo flights through Anchorage; and the huge consumption of energy in the North Slope oil fields.

These are the gases -- mainly carbon dioxide, but also methane, nitrous oxide and others -- that scientists say must be reduced if the planet's atmosphere is to avoid ruinous warming. Alaska is feeling the impacts of warming more than other states because of its northern latitude, with melting ice floes and glaciers and permafrost.

A natural-gas pipeline project would significantly increase North Slope greenhouse gases in the future, according to state estimates. This could be awkward, coming as scrutiny of new emission sources grows. But environmentalists have so far blessed the gas line as a net benefit for the atmosphere, counting on Alaska gas to replace dirtier fuels such as coal in the Lower 48.

Officials in the administration of Gov. Sarah Palin developed the new inventory. They say they have no plans to press for emission targets or legal limits like some other states. But Congress is considering mandatory emission-reduction measures for the future, in line with international efforts.

The inventory will help evaluate how proposed legislation would affect Alaska communities and businesses, said Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Larry Hartig. The study released this month is a draft, with public comment due Feb. 1.

The DEC study expands on a preliminary inventory released almost a year ago. The new report has nearly the same bottom line -- 52.1 million metric tons of greenhouse gases released in Alaska in 2005, with 61.5 million expected by 2020.

That equals about half the emissions of Washington, a state with 10 times Alaska's population. It comes to about 79 tons per Alaskan, more than three times the national average of 24 tons a year.

What's new in this report is a breakdown of the corporations in Alaska with the biggest emissions. Oil companies top the list.

Leading everyone is BP Alaska, whose 10.7 million tons are just over half the industrial emissions in the state.

BP operates most North Slope fields, including the compression plant and central gas facility that together run on more than 1 million horsepower.

"It take a lot of energy to make energy," said BP Alaska spokesman Steve Rinehart.

BP's parent company won worldwide praise a decade ago with its announced commitment to reducing global-warming emissions at its operations.

Last week, Rinehart was unable to cite any major investments by the company in Alaska aimed at that goal. But he said future modernization efforts on the Slope would include emission-reduction efforts.

Transportation, No. 2, accounted for 36.5 percent of Alaska's total. That was based largely on jet fuel sold in Alaska, though state officials noted that much of the fuel was burned elsewhere after the jets departed.

Last year's closure of the Agrium fertilizer plant in Nikiski, the third-largest emitter at 1.7 million tons, will keep the state's numbers from growing quite so fast.

One consequence of the state inventory is to make clear how hard it will be for Alaska -- and the world -- to meet carbon-reduction targets first set by the Kyoto treaty in 1997. That international agreement, never joined by the United States, called for countries to reduce emissions to about 5 percent less than their levels in 1990.

Alaska's emissions have now grown 22 percent since 1990, according to the report. By 2020, Alaska will have grown 44 percent since 1990, according to projections. And that's without a gas pipeline, which the report's authors concluded would not be in place until later.

A gas-pipeline project would probably generate some 9 million metric tons in additional greenhouse-gas emissions from a treatment plant and compressors, according to an estimate developed by the Department of Natural Resources last year for state Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer.

That's based on an expectation that between 5 percent and 7.5 percent of the line's daily throughput would have to be burned to process and move the gas.

Seaton successfully pushed an amendment in the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act last year that requires companies applying to build the line to present a plan for dealing with carbon emissions.


Distributed to subscribers for publication by
Scripps Howard News Service,


Publish A Letter in SitNews
        Read Letters/Opinions

Contact the Editor

SitNews ©2008
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska