State near top on cutting thirst for oil

Washington tops all but two states in its effort to reduce its appetite for oil, according to a report released Tuesday by a national environmental group.

The state received high marks for clean-energy measures that include setting limits on greenhouse-gas emissions from vehicles, requiring a more fuel-efficient state vehicle fleet, setting goals to reduce vehicle miles traveled per year, and promoting electric vehicles and public transit.

Only California and Massachusetts scored better in the oil-dependence report card issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The study also details how oil prices affect consumers. In Washington, drivers spent, on average, about 4.4 percent of their gross income on gasoline in 2008, or about $1,875. Consumers in seven states spent a smaller percentage of their income on gasoline.

The three states where drivers are most affected by oil price increases are Mississippi, Montana and South Carolina, the report states.

California and Massachusetts are the only states with low-carbon fuel standards, which propelled them to the top of the NRDC clean-energy report.

An executive order signed May 21 by Gov. Chris Gregoire directs the state departments of Commerce and Transportation to recommend by July 2010 how Washington can reduce the amount of carbon in transportation fuels.

The report validates recent efforts in Washington to reduce dependence on fuels that produce greenhouse-gas emissions, said Janice Adair, who is a special assistant to state Department of Ecology director Jay Manning.

Nationwide, about one-third of carbon dioxide emissions are linked to the transportation sector. In Washington, transportation accounts for about 50 percent of the climate-change gases.

“Using public transit is one of the easiest things we can do to combat climate change,” American Public Transportation Association president William Millar said in Olympia last week.

The NRDC report calls for a new federal transportation policy that increases funding for public transit, bike paths and sidewalks and provides incentives for public transit-friendly development.

“There’s still a lot of work to do to link land use with public transportation,” Intercity Transit general manager Mike Harbour said during a meeting with The Olympian’s editorial board last week.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444