U.S. Power Plant Carbon Emissions Zoom in 2007

WASHINGTON, DC, March 18, 2008 (ENS) - The biggest single year increase in greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants in nine years occurred in 2007, finds a new analysis by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Environmental Integrity Project. The finding of a 2.9 percent rise in carbon dioxide emissions over 2006 is based on an analysis of data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Now the largest factor in the U.S. contribution to climate change, the electric power industry's emissions of carbon dioxide, CO2, have risen 5.9 percent since 2002 and 11.7 percent since 1997, the analysis shows.

Texas tops the list of the 10 states with the biggest one-year increases in CO2 emissions, with Georgia, Arizona, California, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Virginia and North Carolina close behind.

The top three states - Texas, Georgia and Arizona - had the greatest increases in CO2 emissions on a one, five and 10 year basis.

TXU's coal-fired Martin Lake power plant in east Texas (Photo credit unknown)

Director of the Environmental Integrity Project Eric Schaeffer said, "The current debate over global warming policy tends to focus on long-term goals, like how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent over the next 50 years. But while we debate, CO2 emissions from power plants keep rising, making an already dire situation worse."

"Because CO2 has an atmospheric lifetime of between 50 and 200 years, today's emissions could cause global warming for up to two centuries to come," he warned.

Data from 2006 show that the 10 states with the least efficient power production relative to resulting greenhouse gas emissions were North Dakota, Wyoming, Kentucky, Indiana, Utah, West Virginia, New Mexico, Colorado, Missouri, and Iowa.

The report explains why national environmental groups are fighting to stop the construction of new conventional coal-fired power plants, which they say would make a bad situation worse.

"For example" the report points out, "the eight planned coal-fired plants that TXU withdrew in the face of determined opposition in Texas would have added an estimated 64 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere, increasing emissions from power plants in that state by 24 percent."

Some of the rise in CO2 emissions comes from existing coal fired power plants, the analysis found, either because these plants are operating at increasingly higher capacities, or because these aging plants require more heat to generate electricity. "For example, all of the top 10 highest emitting plants in the nation, either held steady or increased CO2 output from 2006 to 2007."

Robert W Scherer Power Plant is a coal-fired plant just north of Macon, Georgia. It emits more carbon dioxide than any other point in the United States. (Photo credit unknown)

Georgia Power's Scherer power plant near Macon, Georgia is the highest emitting plant in the nation. It pumped out 27.2 million tons of CO2 in 2007, up roughly two million tons from the year before.

In view of these facts, the Environmental Integrity Project recommends that the nation's oldest and dirtiest power plants should be retired, and replaced with cleaner sources of energy. That will require accelerating the development of wind power and other renewable sources of energy.

Another good solution is cutting greenhouse gases quickly by reducing the demand for electricity, the authors advise. Smarter building codes, and funding low-cost conservation efforts, such as weatherization of low-income homes, purchase and installation of more efficient home and business appliances will reduce demand and yield greenhouse gas benefits.

Texas tops every state measurement in the report from the most carbon dioxide measured in total tons to the largest increases in CO2 emissions over the last five years between 2002 and 2007.

Ken Kramer, director of the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club based in Austin, Texas, says his state not only has more emissions than any other state - it has solutions to offer, such as a recent boom in wind power installations.

"The bad news is that Texas is #1 in carbon emissions among the 50 states, and our emissions have grown in recent years," Kramer said. "The good news is that Texas has the potential to play a major role in addressing global warming if we embrace smart energy solutions such as energy efficiency and renewable energy, solutions which pose tremendous economic as well as environmental benefits."

In Des Moines, Mark Kresowik, Iowa organizer of the Sierra Club's National Coal Campaign, said, "Energy efficiency and renewable energy are powering a renaissance in rural Iowa and creating thousands of new manufacturing jobs for our state. By rejecting coal plants and reducing pollution through energy efficiency and renewable energy our states will prosper and attract new businesses and young workers for the future.

The consumption of electricity accounted for more than 2.3 billion tons of CO2 in 2006, or more than 39.5 percent of total emissions from human sources, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Coal-fired power plants alone released more than 1.9 billion tons, or nearly one third of the U.S. total.

The Department of Energy projects that carbon dioxide emissions from power generation will increase 19 percent between 2007 and 2030, due to new or expanded coal plants.

An additional 4,115 megawatts of new coal-fired generating capacity was added between 2000 and 2007, with another 5,000 megawatts expected by 2012.

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