greenest states

How can you really measure Top 10 greenest states?

On the eve of Earth Day, I started reading a story in the Huffington Post declaring the top 10 greenest states.

I'll get into what they are in a minute. What immediately got me are what I considered a couple glaring omissions and imagining how it felt being labeled the worst. The ranking organization, 24/7 Wall St., gave Ohio the No. 1 worst ranking for coming in dead last for alternative energy with 0.7 percent coming from green sources and landing near the bottom for toxic waste creation and carbon footprint.

Ohio residents likely aren't pleased. In fact, the state appears to be working hard to burnish its green graces. Last year the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News quoted Gov. Ted Strickland as pledging that the state "would surpass global competitors" with its aggressive "advanced energy requirements" and innovations. The story followed the official opening of Dayton Power & Light’s 1.1 megawatt Yankee Solar Array and mentioned another 12 megawatt plant installed by Juwi Solar Inc.

But it's all in how statistics are measured.

Whenever there's something about the top anything, somebody's got a beef with it. For instance, my beautiful kinda hometown of Fresno (I live in neighboring Clovis) usually gets labeled No. 1 on low-brow lists, like crime and poverty. Yet, Fresno was No. 7 on a list of hottest U.S. cities, for temperature, not coolness. However, I can't recall the source as it was emailed with a group of other lists from friends.

And I didn't see California anywhere on either 24/7's greenest or least green states list. Keith Matheny of the Desert Sun in Palm Springs wrote of a robust collection of approved projects in Southern California totalling 3,600 megawatts and another 2,173 megawatts worth "in the permitting pipeline." Pretty impressive stuff.

And the state has quite a few more. Sure it's got its other issues, like water and too many houses, but it's also got the only measure in the country requiring that a third of its power come from alternative sources by 2020.

But this green Huff Post left California somewhere in the middle. Here are the greenest states: Starting from No. 10, it goes Colorado, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Hawaii, Nevada, New Hampshire, Maine and No. 1 Vermont.

I have no problems with any of the listed states. I mean Vermont is beautiful. It has mountains, forested views and communities that look as if they haven't changed in 75 years. It's green and gorgeous. I never got as far as Maine, but I've seen photographs.

And the rest are pretty too. Although, I don't get Nevada. The Vegas AC bill certainly must challenge any green activity.

But how the heck would I know? The metrics used by 24/7 Wall St. show measurable data. For instance, No. 4 greenest Nevada gets 9.4 percent of its power from alternative energy, its toxic waste production is relatively small and its carbon footprint ranks 12th in the nation.

The group says it "examined energy consumption, pollution problems and state energy policies with the help of industry experts, government databases and research reports." 24/7 used 27 categories and data from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, the Energy Information Administration, U.S.Department of Energy and other federal and independent organizations.

One reader of the Huffington repost wasn't convinced, saying that Texas is No. 1 in wind power. My grandfather in law would say when the wind picked up in San Antonio that that little barbed wire fence between his massive state and Canada wasn't doing much.

I'd one up Texas, as Alaskans often do, by saying the biggest state in the union may not measure up in the metrics used by 24/7 but it does have one thing going for it. It's green. It has more green, even in winter, than teeny Vermont. And it stomps even larger but still small Maine.

The now expired 50-year contracts with the pulp mills in Southeast Alaska didn't, try as they might, deforest the Tongass National Forest. I recall a trip in a Dehavilland Beaver, soaring above the patchworks of clearcuts for an Anchorage Times story on logging and its effects on the environment and economy.

I'll never forget the experience, and I could immediately see why early on how federal planners thought the timber would never end. The Beaver on pontoons is an awesome plane. We landed at a recent cut in the middle of nowhere, north of Ketchikan (where my great-grandfather married his wife) and got out, wading to shore. I had to touch the scads of rings reflected in the stump of an old growth evergreen and got sap all over my hand and subsequently my pants and notebook.

And I remember growing up in Fairbanks with a band of off-the-grid hippies whose motto was do more with less. Now it's called carbon footprint reduction. But that's green. I'm sure Texas has its own stories, as does Ohio.

I'd like to see more of those green stories. And it needn't be anti-growth. Logging can be sustainable. Wind can be harvested as can the sun. We'll still need oil, but the cost is climbing. The price of carbon is likely to be tallied as its effects become more visible, making the alternatives to fossil fuels that much more approachable.

At, a site dedicated to reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a recent post was titled "Celebrating our victories." It mentioned this pearl of wisdom: "One of the biggest global warming myths is that nothing is happening to stop it."

Work to improve the economy and environment is going on in all 50 states. Some of it just doesn't register right away.

Photo: Juwi Solar Inc. plant in Ohio.