Shutter 1.2% Of Power Plants, Cut Carbon Costs By 20%

The nation’s most-polluting power plant, Georgia Power Company’s Plant Scherer in Juliette, Georgia, emits more carbon dioxide than all of Maine's energy emissions. The nation’s most-polluting power plant, Georgia Power Company’s Plant Scherer in Juliette, Georgia, emits more carbon dioxide than all of Maine’s energy emissions. Here’s more from Environment America:

On September 10, the Environment America Research & Policy Center, an independent nonprofit, and the Frontier Group presented a mighty appealing fast track toward limiting the U.S. contribution to global climate change.*

“It doesn’t take a trip to the Arctic Circle to see evidence of global warming these days,” say the report’s authors, Jordan Schneider and Travis Madsen of Frontier and Environment America’s Julian Boggs.

Like most other scientists, these three point out a clear link between increased frequency and severity of heavy rains and intense heat waves to climate change. “A warmer world is likely to exacerbate the impacts of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, floods, drought, and wildfires,” the new report says.

“Power plants are the largest source of global warming pollution in the United States, responsible for 41% of the nation’s production of carbon dioxide pollution…. A small handful of the dirtiest power plants produce a massive and disproportionate share of the nation’s global warming pollution.”

Tasked with estimating the oversized carbon load of major offenders and recommending measures to reduce it, the investigators reported conclusions Tuesday. The top hundred carbon-emitting power plants in the U.S.—just over 1% of the country’s 6,000 generating stations—produce 20% of all American greenhouse carbon. Ninety-eight of these plants use coal fuel.

The report examines carbon dioxide emissions from all utility and non-utility power plants in the United States (2011 data). Emissions from the top 50 American power plants equal the air pollution contributed by half the nation’s 240 million cars.

The authors also found that the dirtiest U.S. plants are major sources of carbon pollution on a global scale. If the 50 most-polluting U.S. power plants were an independent nation, it would be the seventh-largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, behind Germany and ahead of South Korea. The top 50 U.S. polluters contribute 2% of annual power-related carbon pollution in earth’s atmosphere.

Six months ago, the Environmental Protection Agency suggested limiting new plants to 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of energy. It’s very unlikely that new coal plants would be able to meet this standard. The agency plans to propose standards for existing plants by June next year and finalize them in 2015.

Two policy recommendations have come from the Environment America/Frontier Group report:

• To protect our health, our economy, and our environment from the dangers of global warming, America must clean up its dirtiest power plants.

• In addition to cutting pollution from power plants, the United States should adopt a suite of clean energy policies at the local, state, and federal level to curb emissions of carbon dioxide from energy use in other sectors.

*Environment America Research & Policy Center is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to protecting air, water, and open spaces. It investigates problems, crafts solutions, educates the public and decision-makers, and helps people make their voices heard in local, state, and national debates over the quality of the environment and our lives. (Click for more information about Environment America Research & Policy Center.) Frontier Group conducts independent research and policy analysis to support a cleaner, healthier, and more democratic society. (Click for more information about Frontier Group.)

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