The coal-fuelled grid is the US’ biggest polluter pumping out three times as much CO2 as all the nation’s cars put together, says a new report.
The study by environmental lobby group Environment America details the full extent of environmental damage caused by power plants in the US. It lists the country’s dirtiest 100 power plants and identifies Texas as the dirtiest state by far.
Released this week, the report examines carbon dioxide emissions from power plants across the country using 2007 data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Equal to 450m cars
The extent of the pollution caused by mostly old, mostly coal-powered power stations revealed in the report is surprising even for convinced environmentalists. It shows that power plants on the grid emitted 2.56 billion tons of CO2 in 2007, equivalent to the pollution from nearly 450 million cars.
More than 80 percent of this pollution came from coal-fired plants. Currently they do not have to meet any global warming pollution standards whatsoever, says the report. As a result they can operate with no regard to their environmental effect.
The cost of the damage they cause is jaw-dropping. The EA report cites a 2004 study by the Clean Air Task force which estimated that soot pollution from power stations was responsible for 24,000 deaths a year.
It quotes another report released this year by the National Academy of Sciences which found that coal fuelled power plants cost the US $62b in external damage in 2005. That works out to an extra cost of 3.2 cents pr kilowatt hour.
The EA report identified the Scherer power station in Georgia as the dirtiest in the entire country. It alone produced 27.2m tons of C02, more even than the James H Miller Jr plant in Indiana which produced 23.7m tons and the Bowen power plant, again in Georgia which produced 23.2m tons of CO2.
Dirty old Texas
Texas, Ohio, and Florida ranked as the states with the most carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in 2007. They produced 259, 138 and 134 million tons respectively of C02 in 2007.
Texas is still the worst polluter despite grand plans by Governor Rick Perry to reduce carbon emissions. “I want Texas to be the epicenter of energy development — wind, solar, clean coal, obviously natural gas, nuclear and biofuels. I can envision a day when the state gets more of its power from alternative energy than from fossil fuels such as oil and coal, ” said Perry last year. Clearly that day is still some way off.
EA called for greater regulation of power stations and a move to cleaner technologies. It said cleaning up America’s fleet of ageing inefficient power plants is critical to the fight against global warming. “It’s time for the oldest and dirtiest power plants to clean up their act,” said Environment America Global Warming Associate Courtney Abrams.
Polluting without licence
“Coal-fired giants have dominated our electricity for decades and have been allowed to pollute without license. In order to stop global warming and reap all the benefits of clean energy, we must require old coal-fired clunkers to meet modern standards for global warming pollution.”
“We’re reliant on technology that’s as old as the very first commercially available televisions. Televisions have gone from black-and-white clunkers to super high-definition flat screens, but they’re still powered by the same dirty electricity,” he added.
The report concludes that making the move to clean, renewable energy will cut pollution as well as jump-start the economy and create millions of clean energy jobs.
It called for The Environmental Protection Agency to finalize its proposal to require coal plants and other big smokestack industries to meet modern standards for global warming pollution.
It said that Congress should pass strong clean energy and global warming legislation that caps global warming pollution at science-based levels, establishes strong mandates for clean
And it demanded that Congress should abolish subsidies that help keep the US dependent on fossil fuels for its energy. ENDS