Consider that the most environmentally friendly states are Vermont, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington and Connecticut, while the lowest are Oklahoma, North Dakota, West Virginia, Montana and Wyoming. Notice a pattern?
It turns out that political affiliation is closely linked to eco-friendliness, according to a study recently released by WalletHub. To determine the rankings, the credit-score website looked at 20 key metrics across three dimensions: environmental quality, eco-friendly behaviors and climate-change contributions.
As the results were analyzed, a trend emerged: Blue states ranked much higher, with an average of 13, than red states, with an average of 37. A lower ranking denotes that a state is more eco-friendly. The cost of electricity, the prevalence of polluting industries and even geography are a few of the contributing factors.
Here’s a look at what made the difference:
Renewable Portfolio Standards
Blue states are much more likely than red states to have Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) in place to promote the use of clean energy. In fact, all five of the greenest states have either an RPS or have set renewable portfolio goals. Of the five lowest-ranking states, two states have no RPS or renewable portfolio goals.
Renewable Energy Production
To some extent, renewable energy production relies on geologic and climactic factors. Oregon and Washington rank in the top five for states that consume energy from renewable sources. They lead the nation in consuming hydroelectric energy, which is enabled by their topographic features and volume of water necessary to produce large quantities of power.
The cost of electricity impacts the return on investment of renewable energy sources. Wind and solar energy are more cost competitive in states with higher electricity prices. Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts have some of the highest electricity prices, while Wyoming, North Dakota and Oklahoma have some of the lowest. It’s not surprising that a study from Greentech Media found that solar energy is least appealing in North Dakota and Oklahoma.
Energy Prices and Energy Efficiency
Wyoming and North Dakota have some of the highest energy consumption rates per capita, according to WalletHub. The cost of electricity also impacts the return from energy-efficiency improvements and habits. When electricity is more expensive, there is a greater incentive to conserve it with high-efficiency appliances, lighting, mechanical systems and conservation efforts.
Electricity Prices and Coal
It is common for cheaper electricity to come from coal, which is one of the dirtiest sources of electricity. For example, Wyoming has some of the cheapest electricity in the country, and 88 percent of its net electricity generation comes from coal. North Dakota has a similar energy production profile, with 71 percent of its net electricity generation from coal. It is interesting to note that Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming also have some of the best wind energy resources in the country, and wind energy is slowly responsible for a larger percentage of their total energy production. This trend is likely to continue as the cost of wind energy falls.
Vehicle Emissions Testing
Although auto emissions play a larger role in overall air quality in more-populated states, emissions testing does shed some light on policy differences and enforcement between red and blue states. Of the five lowest-ranking states, none require mandatory emissions testing. Meanwhile, all five of the highest-ranking states do.
Ultimately, it is more likely that states with more eco-minded citizens will have stricter laws regarding pollution, resource conservation, renewable energy and climate change mitigation. Blue policies more commonly take the environment into account and are less supportive of highly degrading practices. Although these are generalities and there are many exceptions, the WalletHub study does demonstrate how ideological differences ultimately result in very tangible differences.
Feature photo courtesy of Shutterstock