You’ll choke at Idaho’s ranking in new U.S. air study. Take a deep breath, expert says.

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Posted at 12:06 PM, Aug 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-10 14:06:39-04

This article was originally published by Michael Deeds of the Idaho Statesman.

Holy smokes, Idaho.

Are you stoked to live in the Gem State because of its pristine rivers and streams? Its gorgeous skies? Its clear mountain air?

Then put this new carbon emissions study in your pipe and smoke it.

(Wait — maybe that’s not a good idea.)

Environmental website Grist recently cooked up an article about U.S. states’ progress to reduce carbon dioxide pollution. Using freshly released data from the World Resources Institute, an international research organization, Grist created an eye-opening graphic. It highlights states’ percentage change in carbon emissions between 2005 and 2017, the latest year available from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Idaho choked. Bad.

While 41 states cut their carbon emissions, “even as their economies grew,” Grist notes, Idaho’s CO2 stank increased by a whopping 17 percent.

We finished dead last in all of America.


Tiffany Floyd, administrator of air quality for the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, was just as surprised as I was. So surprised, in fact, that she put the data in front of DEQ staff.

Is it Idaho’s constantly raging forest fires? Or Canyon County’s snub of vehicle emissions testing until a decade ago?

“Looking at those tables,” Floyd said in a telephone conversation, “I think it’s probably what we would expect. Idaho is one of the fastest-growing states. And you’re going to see ... some level of increased carbon emissions.”

You dang newbie transplants breathing out CO2 all over the Boise area. Quit it!

We all should take a deep breath. Even if Idaho is headed in the wrong direction in this report, Floyd says, we’re still way better off than the majority of the nation.

If you peruse data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, you’ll see that most other states have reduced their emissions by more than Idaho emits, Floyd said. Idaho went from 16.1 million metric tons of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2005 to 18.5 in 2016.

Alabama — the first state listed on the table — emitted 145.7 million metric tons in 2005, but reduced it to 115.7 by 2016.

Bottom line: See any coal-fired power plants around the Gem State? No. That is a good thing.

What we do see is increased population — and the vehicles that come with it.

“If you drill down into the data,” Floyd explained, “most of Idaho’s CO2 emissions are from transportation, and while percentage-wise, there is an increase in emissions, overall Idaho’s CO2 emissions are low.

“... Since Idaho is already starting with low carbon emissions, a relatively small increase results in a higher percentage increase.”

Bam! We suddenly look bad. But even if our ranking comes across as the smoker’s patio outside a biker bar, Idaho’s air quality is not terrible — yet.

“I’m going to go with not yet,” Floyd said with a chuckle. “We’re going to keep it good!

“We do a lot to protect air quality in our state,” she added. “I just think with everybody doing their part, we can continue to keep our air quality good.”

So breathe easy. Also, try riding a bicycle?