Mississippi’s 47 energy efficency ranking means “cap and trade” to be more costly

Mississippi ranks among the least energy-efficient states.

Only 12 other states produce more heat-trapping car bon dioxide gas and other greenhouse gases per capita, according to numbers compiled by one environmental group.

There’s little question, then, that landmark congressional legislation to address global warming concerns could have a disproportionate impact if it becomes law. The question is: How much impact?

Even bill supporters acknowledge that the legislation would raise some energy costs, given that it is intended to discourage the burning of coal and other fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gases. By 2020, the cost to the average household nationwide from the bill’s centerpiece “a cap and trade” system for greenhouse gases would amount to $175 per year, the Congressional Budget Office reported last month.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Bolton, backed the measure, while Reps. Gene Taylor, D-Bay St. Louis, Travis Childers, D-Booneville, and Gregg Harper, R-Pearl, were opposed.

According to rankings last year by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a nonpartisan group in Washington, D.C., neither Mississippi nor Alabama is doing much to help consumers and businesses save energy.

Alabama ran even with North Dakota for 49th place in the energy-efficiency rankings, while Mississippi tied with South Dakota to capture 47th.

Largely because of its utilities’ reliance on coal to generate electricity, Alabama, in particular, adds more than its share of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Although medium-sized by territory and population, Alabama placed 13th nationally in per-person releases, according to 2005 estimates compiled by the World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank also in the nation’s capital. Mississippi was 21st; the 2005 numbers are the most recent posted on the institute’s Web site.

As of the first quarter this year, Atlanta-based Southern Company, the corporate parent of Alabama Power Co. and Mississippi Power Co., had 63 lobbyists seeking to influence climate change legislation, far more than any other U.S. business or interest group, according to the Center for Public Integrity, a watchdog group.

In their May letter, which was addressed to Waxman, Alabama lawmakers warned that tougher renewable energy standards could cost Alabama Power’s 1.4 million customers some $300 million annually by 2020.