At a time when concerns for global warming and climate change are at their zenith, and nations striving to reduce green house gas levels, the US can expect to see an increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels are burnt, CO2 is one of the several gasses that contribute to climate change and global warming.
The reason for this lies in a flurry of activity in the US energy industry which has received permission to build around 150 new fossil-fired power plants across the country by 2030.
In a recently released study, the Environmental Integrity Project, a non-profit organisation that dedicates itself to better enforcement of anti-pollution laws in the US, reported that there is a new eagerness in the power industry to set up coal-fire plants. According to the EIP attorney Levin this development will have disastrous consequences for the environment as:
Once utility companies secure their air pollution permits, we can expect them to argue that these new plants should be ‘grandfathered’, or exempt from any pending limits on greenhouse gases.
Interestingly for a developed nation, even today over 50% of all power generated in the US comes from coal fired power plants. This data ties in with the fact that power plants in the US contribute in excess of 40% of all CO2 emissions in the country and 23% of global carbon emissions. Despite the recent statistic that CO2 emissions from power plants fell by almost 2% in the US in the year 2006, there is a continuing fear amongst environmental organisations that the country will experience a steep increase in pollution over the next twenty-five years.
The EIP survey of the 50 dirtiest power plants in the US, entitled ‘Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Polluting Power Plants’ also reports that:
– Texas tops the list with 5 of the dirtiest plants nationwide. Of these two also figure in the top 10 dirtiest list.
– Indiana and Pennsylvania follow close behind with 4 each. Two plants from Indiana also make it to the top 10 dirtiest list.
– Georgia and West Virginia are amongst states with 3 dirty plants each.
– Florida and Wyoming had 2 each of the dirtiest plants.
– The New England and Pacific Coast states do not figure on this list as they have considerably lesser coal-burning power plants.
– However southern states including Arizona and Utah that provide power to California were deemed amongst the dirtiest.
The term ‘dirtiest’ is qualified in the report as those plants with the highest CO2 emissions.
This report had been disputed by the power companies. Scott Segal, an advocate representing these companies dismissed it as:
… a summer ritual for the environmentalists. They release essentially the same report that tries to draw conclusions from generic monitoring data about specific plants.
Despite the fact that the EIP study was based on official data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy, he further observed:
The real record for the power sector, as well as manufacturing, is that there have been significant gains in air quality.
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