Industry accounts for two-thirds of Louisiana’s carbon emissions, research shows

Just 20 facilities are responsible for roughly half of state’s industrial carbon emissions

By: - July 30, 2021 5:31 pm
Gas pollution rises from the Valero Oil refinery in Meraux

Smoke rises from an oil refinery in Meraux on June 19, 2020. (Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator)

Editor’s Note: An updated final version of LSU’s 2021 Greenhouse Gas Inventory indicated that industry accounts for 66% of Louisiana’s total carbon emissions.

Louisiana’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to a recent study by the LSU Center for Energy Studies, are “dominated by the industrial sector,” which accounts for about two-thirds of the state’s total carbon dioxide emissions. That’s nearly three times the national average share, according to the study. Emissions from all other sectors of Louisiana’s economy measured well below national averages.

The carbon footprints of residential and commercial consumers each account for a minuscule 1% of the state’s total, according to the LSU study.

When David Dismukes, the executive director of LSU’s Center for Energy Studies, presented those findings to the Louisiana Climate Initiatives Task Force on Thursday, some members called for the task force to shift its focus from exploring ideas such as carbon capture to actually reducing the state’s industrial footprint.

In addition to entertaining the idea of exploring carbon capture and storage (CCS), a largely untested technology that involves capturing carbon dioxide and injecting it underground to be stored for centuries, the task force has also discussed reducing emissions from vehicles — even though, according to LSU’s findings, eliminating half the state’s cars would only reduce Louisiana’s emissions by 10%. 

There’s going to have to be a reduction in footprint as a means of reducing emissions. I don’t see where the data has said anything else to us.

– Task force member Flozell Daniels

Task force member Flozell Daniels, CEO of the Foundation for Louisiana, asked his colleagues if they really believe capturing carbon and reducing traffic would be enough to reach Gov. John Bel Edwards’ ambitious goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions statewide by 2050.

“We have three times the industrial impact, so there just has to be something extraordinary for us to consider when we’re looking at this,” Daniels said. “I don’t believe decarbonization alone will get us there. There’s going to have to be a reduction in footprint as a means of reducing emissions. I don’t see where the data has said anything else to us.”

Task force member Collette Battle, who is also the executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy, concurred. 

“We can’t just produce our way out of this thing,” Battle said. “We can’t just invest our way out of this thing. Some of what we have to do is actually reduce what we’re doing.”

She said the strategies the task force has previously discussed are more about creating jobs. She urged her colleagues to “reimagine our economy” if they truly want to tackle the climate crisis.

Over the last decade, Louisiana has been one of the top five worst polluters in the country in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The LSU findings presented on Thursday showed that just 20 petrochemical facilities in Louisiana are responsible for more than half the state’s industrial greenhouse gas emissions. 

Carbon capture and storage, according to the Institute for Energy Economics, has not yet proved effective on any significant scale and still lacks many general standards. Storage options remain uncertain and carry additional risks. Also, the technology often relies on tax incentives while remaining under the control and operation of the industries themselves, according to the institute.

The task force has until February 2022 to come up with a final plan to present to the governor.


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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots to 1997 when, at age 13, he built a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. Since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune and worked on staff at WAFB/CBS, the Sun Herald and the Enterprise-Journal, winning awards from the SPJ, Associated Press, Mississippi Press Association and McClatchy. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Muller is a New Orleans native, Jesuit High School alumnus, University of New Orleans alumnus and a U.S. Army veteran and former paratrooper. He lives in Southeast Louisiana with his two sons and wife.