An inventory of New Mexico's greenhouse gas production shows residents have reduced their average emissions from gasoline use over a seven-year period, but they're consuming more energy to heat, cool and power their homes.
Despite efforts by Gov. Bill Richardson's administration to address climate change and lower greenhouse gas emissions, a draft inventory prepared by the state Environment Department shows New Mexico's total direct emissions increased by about 4 percent between 2000 and 2007 to 80 million metric tons.
Richardson has signed several executive orders aimed at curbing the pollution blamed for global warming. He has appointed advisory groups to come up with recommendations and mandated that state government become more energy efficient.
However, environmentalists say the inventory is evidence that the state needs to do more to regulate emission sources.
"We should be concerned because the governor has stated his goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and if we're increasing emissions, we're not on the right track. Pure and simple," said Jeremy Nichols, the climate and energy program director for environmental group WildEarth Guardians.
Despite the increase, state officials argued Monday that the inventory shows the policies the administration began implementing in 2005 are beginning to have an impact.
Between 1990 and 2000, greenhouse gas emissions jumped more than 20 percent — more than five times the increase seen over the last seven years, said Jim Norton, director of the Environment Department's Environmental Protection Division.
"The goal here is to slow, stop and reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. We haven't stopped the growth yet but we're certainly on that path," Norton said. "We're about to reach that cusp that we've all been waiting for where we hit the peak and we start to move back down."
State officials expect the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to be even more significant in the next few years thanks to New Mexico's renewable energy portfolio standard, which requires utilities to produce a certain percentage of electricity from renewable sources, and more stringent emission standards for cars and trucks beginning with the 2011 model year.
Richardson also has proposed developing recommendations for reducing emissions from existing coal-fired power plants and establishing an emission performance standard for new fossil-fueled generating facilities.
According to the inventory, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions is electricity production at 39 percent. About 90 percent of these emissions come from coal-fired power plants, but the state says emissions per megawatt-hour of electricity produced have decreased by almost 7.5 percent since 2000 due to increases in energy from by wind, solar and natural gas.
The inventory also shows New Mexico's population grew 6.7 percent from 2000 to 2007 but gasoline emissions dropped 2.5 percent. Officials say higher gas prices, more public transportation and newer, more efficient vehicles could have played a role.
Still, people are using more electricity at home. Officials say that may be due to greater use of air conditioning, electric heat and appliances.
Nichols said the challenge for New Mexico and other states will be controlling emissions as populations and energy demands continue to grow.
"What this underscores is the need to be more aggressive in developing renewable energy and to go further when it comes to efficiency and conservation," he said.
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