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1% Of US Power Plants Emit 33% Of Energy Industry Carbon. Easy Fix?

Coal-fired power plant

A new report (PDF) has found that less than 1% of America’s power plants emit almost a third of US electricity industry carbon emissions, Mother Jones has reported. Unsurprisingly, the majority (98) of the top 100 emitters happen to be coal plants. This begs the question: if it’s only 1% of power plants, how easy would this be to clean up a huge percentage of emissions?

The report from the independent, not-for-profit Environment America Research & Policy Center indicates that addressing these biggest polluters would have a huge impact in terms of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Together the emissions from these top polluting power plants, if they were a country in themselves, would represent the seventh largest source of carbon emissions in the world!

This report comes ahead of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal for emissions standards for new power plants. It has been suggested that any new coal-fired plants are unlikely to be able to meet the strict new standards the EPA will no doubt propose, so should stop new coal-fired plants from being built. This will not address existing coal plant pollution, but there are new standards for existing power plants in the planning as well. These are not expected to be finalized until 2015.

As there are around 6,000 power plants in the U.S., surely it wouldn’t be too difficult to retire the 100 top polluting power plants in coming years. Renewable energy is gaining ground year by year, and in the case of solar power, the growth is exponential. Natural gas plants have also been taking over from older coal plants. In fact, over 100 coal plants have already been shut down in recent years, so it’s not difficult to summize that it could well be possible to shut down the top polluting power plants in a relatively short space of time, with the right regulatory framework in place.

Image CC licensed by Doc Searls: Coal-fired power plant.

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