Report: U.S. Power Plant Carbon Emissions Dipped 3.1% in 2008

Carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in the U.S. dropped 3.1% in 2008—a departure from the steadily increasing trend in preceding years, according to a new document from Environment Integrity Project (EIP), a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization.

CO2 emissions have risen 0.9% since 2003 and 4.5% since 1998, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection agency, the EIP reported in “The Calm Before the Storm,” (PDF) a document it released last week. The one-year dip is due in part to “to a drop in electric generation—gross electric output was down approximately 3.3% in 2008, as compared to 2007,” it said.

The decrease was also attributed to the economy and the weather, “two key factors that affect electric generation and CO2 emissions from year to year,” the report said. “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 Obama administration proposed in the 2010 budget to reduce national emissions by 83% (from 2005 levels) by 2050 through cap-and-trade legislation. The interim goal proposed by the administration is a 14% reduction by 2020.

But, the Department of Energy predicts that CO2 emissions from power generation will increase 15% between 2009 and 2030, tagging the change to new or expanded coal plants. According to the National Energy Technology Laboratory, an additional 1,392 MW of new coal-fired generating capacity was added in 2008, and another 26,131 MW have been permitted.

Though the national emissions average showed an overall decline, six states had increases 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).

According the report, the 10 states that emitted the most CO2 in 2008, measured in total tons, were: 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) were: 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).

Also identified in the report were a number of power plants that emitted the most CO2 relative to electricity generated in 2008. The EIP said it referenced that information from the EPA’s Clean Air Markets website.

Sources: EIP, EPA, DOE, NREL

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