If you want do something about the United States' contribution to climate change, you can't ignore the power sector: 6,000 plants produce 41% of carbon dioxide emissions in the country. But, most of all, you can't ignore the most polluting plants: the 50 dirtiest produce 2% of all energy-related emissions worldwide, or more than the total output of all but six countries. This select group of power plants bears greater responsibility for climate change than major nations like South Korea and Canada.
These eye-popping stats are from a new report by the Environment America Research and Policy Center that ranks every state's power plant pollution and lists the top 100 dirtiest plants overall. The point is to show the outsized role of certain facilities: the top 100 offenders account for half of all U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions.
Coal—which is more carbon-intensive than other fossil fuels—is a big part of the picture: 98 of the top 100, and 317 of the top 500, are coal-fired. The rest are older oil or gas-fired plants. The dirtiest of all is Plant Scherer, in Georgia, which releases more energy-related emissions than the entire state of Maine. Plant Scherer is followed by Alabama Power's James H Miller Jr. Plant, Luminant’s Martin Lake in Texas, Ameren’s Labadie in Missouri, and NRG Energy’s W A Parish, also in Texas (they are all coal-burning). Texas, Ohio, and Florida have the highest power sector CO2 emissions out of all the states.
The Environment America Research and Policy Center hopes this information spurs the Obama Administration to follow through on plans to regulate both new and existing power plants, as outlined in the President's climate change speech in June. "America's dirtiest power plants are the elephant in the room when it comes to global warming," says Julian Boggs, the Center's global warming program director. An emissions standards proposal for new power plants is anticipated from the Environmental Protection Agency in the coming weeks, and standards for existing plants are expected to be released in 2015.
Check out the full list of dirty power plants here.
[Image: Pollution via Shutterstock]