Monday, April 6, 2009

Report: U.S. Power Plant Carbon Dioxide Emissions Eased Slightly in 2008, But Much More Progress Needed to Meet CO2 Reduction Goals

/PRNewswire / -- Due in part to the recent economic slowdown and milder-than-usual weather, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from U.S. power plants dropped 3.1 percent in 2008, tempering a steady increasing trend in the preceding years, according to a new report from the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).

EIP officials cautioned that the one-year dip is a departure from the recent trends in power plant carbon dioxide emissions, which have risen 0.9 percent since 2003, and 4.5 percent since 1998, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Despite the slight overall national improvement in CO2 emissions, six states had increases in power plant emissions of 1 million tons or more from 2007 to 2008: Oklahoma (3.1 million); Iowa (1.8 million); Texas (1.7 million); Nebraska (1.3 million); Illinois (1.1 million) and Washington (1.1 million).

Commenting on the new report, EIP Senior Attorney Ilan Levin said: "Unfortunately, one year of improved data does not mean that we are on the right path for carbon dioxide reduction from U.S. power plants. We clearly cannot afford a wave of conventional fossil-fired power plants that would only add tens of millions of tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year over the lifetimes of these new plants. If the United States is serious about curbing greenhouse gas pollution and meeting the goals that the scientific community says are needed, then many of the nation's dirtiest power plants will either need to be cleaned up or retired. We have no time to lose."

According to the EIP report: "The drop in CO2 emissions in 2008 is primarily attributable to a drop in electric generation -- gross electric output was down approximately 3.3 percent in 2008, as compared to 2007, according to the EPA data. The economy and the weather are two key factors that affect electric generation and CO2 emissions from year to year. Other factors, including the rising demand for electricity and the growth of generation by both existing and new fossil-fired power plants over the past decade, may make it increasingly difficult to make needed long-term reductions and reverse the rising emissions trend. The Department of Energy predicts that carbon dioxide emissions from power generation will increase 15 percent between 2009 and 2030, due to new or expanded coal plants. According to the National Energy Technology Laboratory, an additional 1,392 megawatts of new coal-fired generating capacity was added in 2008, and another 26,131 megawatts have been permitted."

EIP released the report today against a backdrop in which leading scientists agree on the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 80 percent over the next fifty years. The Obama Administration has proposed a plan to reduce emissions by 83 percent (from 2005 levels) by 2050, through cap-and-trade legislation. The Administration has proposed an interim short-term goal of a 14 percent reduction in emissions by 2020.

The 10 states that emitted the most CO2 in 2008, measured in total tons, are: Texas, Ohio, Indiana, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, and West Virginia.

The 10 states with the largest CO2 increases over the past 10 years (from 1998 to 2008) are: Texas (26.9 million tons); Arizona (22.6 million); California (18.8 million); Georgia (17.7 million); Illinois (17.7 million); Oklahoma (16.6 million); Alabama (8.9 million); South Carolina (7.5 million); Colorado (6.7 million); and Iowa (6 million).

According to the EIP report, Oklahoma's massive 2007-2008 increase in CO2 emissions is primarily attributable to ramped up generation at three power plants: Muskogee units 4 & 5 (coal), Sooner units 1 & 2 (coal) and Northeastern units 3314 (coal) & 3302 (natural gas) accounted for the vast majority of the CO2 increase. Combined, the units increased their CO2 emissions 4,286,131 tons from 2007 levels.

Reported C02 emissions were obtained from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "Clean Air Markets" webpage. The database is a publicly accessible repository for emissions and other operational data self-reported by the utility industry, and includes more than 1,000 power plants regulated under the federal Acid Rain Program. Additional information on these programs and the database can be found on EPA's Clean Air Markets web page at

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