24 February 2011, 15:23 BST
Even as a fierce debate rages in Congress about whether or not to handcuff the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to deal with coal-fired power plant pollution, a new report from the Environmental Integrity Project shows that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants in the U.S. rose 5.56% in 2010 over the year before, the biggest annual increase since the EPA began tracking emissions in 1995.
The report is based on data from the EPA's "Clean Air Markets" website, which tallies emission reports from electric generators.
Texas power plants led the pack in 2010, with nearly 257 million ton of CO2 emissions, as much as the next two states combined (Florida and Ohio), and more than seven times the total CO2 emissions from power plants in California. Despite a favorable climate for wind energy and falling natural gas prices, Texas opened three new coal plants toward the end of 2010, with a combined capacity of 2,156 megawatts (MW). The 10 worst states for CO2 pollution identified in the report are Texas, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri.
Commenting on the report, EIP Director Eric Schaeffer said: "The industry's allies on Capitol Hill are working hard to turn back the clock by repealing environmental standards for coal plants that are already many years overdue. Congress may weaken or even eliminate EPA's ability to stop coal plant pollution, and block further study of climate change. But even the most powerful legislature in the world is subject to the laws of science, and global warming will not disappear because our politicians choose to pretend that it does not exist.
Electricity generators released 2.423 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2010, compared to 2.295 billion tons in 2009, according to information available on EPA's "Clean Air Markets" database. Power plant emissions are still below the high water mark of 2.565 million tons set in 2007. Last year's rise was driven in part by a 4% net increase in overall generation for the 12 months ending in November of 2010, due to the economic recovery and unusually warm weather in some parts of the country.
Average global temperatures last year reached the 2005 level, the warmest year on record. CO2 is the most prevalent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming; the combustion of fossil fuels for electricity generation in the U.S. accounts for more than one third of our nation's total U.S. releases of CO2, and about 5% of CO2 emissions worldwide. Coal-fired boilers provided 45% of U.S. electricity in 2010, but were responsible for 81% of total CO2 emissions from electricity generation last year.
The full report is available online.
Source: Sustainable Business