by Hans D. Stroo & Quintin Barnes on October 20, 2014

1.) After Coal: The future of Washington’s emission profile

Where do Washington’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from? What are we doing to reduce GHG? Washington legislated GHG reduction targets for 2020, 2035, and 2050. The latest Ecology numbers are available from Ecology’s GHG emisisons inventory and for 2011 via the Climate Emissions Reduction Taskforce (CERT) website and materials. Perhaps more interesting, when considering Washington’s targets, are the projected emissions for 2035, compiled by the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup’s technical consultant, Leidos. Leidos provides a baseline assumption of where Washington’s emissions may be in 2035, but it purposefully does not include policies that are making the electricity sector much cleaner, despite the sector’s trend towards a cleaner mix.

While there are multiple paths to a cleaner electricity sector, modeling a fuel switch from coal to natural gas allows us to see how Washington’s emissions shake out when emissions from some fossil fuels are mitigated. This will be the result of a combination of policies that are already affecting the electricity sector: I-937, Centralia shutdown by 2025, EPA’s pending 111(d), and the Governor’s efforts to eliminate coal-by-wire. Washington has very clean and competitive electricity; we can use it more wisely through energy efficiency, a fact that emphasizes the need to address transportation emissions.

2.) After Coal: Carbon Intensity of Transportation Fuel Pathways

Transportation fuels represent almost half of Washington’s GHG. What you drive (or where you charge your car) determines your carbon footprint. The carbon intensity of a fuel is determined through a life cycle analysis that incorporates all carbon emissions associated with the extraction, production, and combustion/usage of each transportation fuel. Values are displayed in grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per megajoule (gCO2e/MJ). Preliminary iLUC values for soy- and corn-based fuels are in the tooltip (hover over the bar).


The taxation of carbon emissions is a prominent topic in Washington State. Governor Inslee’s CERT (CERT) is considering several approaches to reducing carbon including a carbon tax. Their final recommendations are due November 21, 2014. In addition, the organization Carbon Washington is leading support for a revenue-neutral carbon tax. The graph below illustrates different scenarios for how carbon emissions might be taxed in Washington State. Forecasts are based off of the C-TAM model created by Keibun Mori. It is important to note that the emissions shown here are only from the combustion of fossil fuels and do not include emissions from non-energy sources such as agriculture and land use change. As such, 1990 emissions = 66.67 Million Metric Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent. The scenarios depicted in the model are:

  • Business As Usual — This is the baseline scenario; the status quo. The expected emissions with no carbon tax.
  • Scenario A — This carbon tax scenario begins at $10 per metric ton in 2015 and goes up by $5/year until it maxes out at $30. This situation is roughly equivalent to British Columbia’s carbon tax which is currently stalled at $30.
  • Scenario B — In this scenario, the carbon tax begins at $15 per metric ton in 2015, goes up by $8.50/year until it maxes out at $180. Note that the model suggests this is the level of tax necessary to achieve the legislature’s 2035  goal.

The targets established by the state legislature via RCW 70.235.020:

  • 2020 Goal — 66.67 (1990 emissions levels)
  • 2035 Goal — 50 MMTCO2e (Under 75 percent of 1990-levels)
  • 2050 Goal — 33.34 MMTCO2e (Under 50 percent of 1990-levels)



Though these graphs depict total electricity use per capita — and include industrial electricity use in addition to residential and commercial electricity consumption — they underscore the vast opportunities to become more energy efficient as Washington adds 1.7 million residents by 2040.