Power Plants Emit 72% of US Greenhouse Gases by Stationary Sources

For the first time, an inventory of the largest stationary greenhouse gas emitters in the United States has made been made publicly available. On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published the first-ever inventory of greenhouse gas emissions from large polluters. The inventory, which catalogs the 2010 direct emissions of the 6,700 largest stationary emitters across nine industrial sectors, shows that nearly three-quarters of industrial greenhouse gases (GHGs) are emitted by power plants. When the emissions generated by the second-largest stationary source, oil and gas refineries, are added to that figure, 78% of GHGs can be contributed to those two segments of the fossil fuel sector.

US greenhouse gas emissions by sector

Mandated by the 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program is designed to inform future policy decisions and possibly generate the baseline data required for the regulation of GHG emissions, as directed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark 2007 case, Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency.

“The GHG Reporting Program data provides a critical tool for businesses and other innovators to find cost- and fuel-saving efficiencies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and foster technologies to protect public health and the environment,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.

It is important to note that the new EPA inventory does not represent the entire universe of GHG emissions, whether stationary or mobile. Emissions from smaller distributed sources, including vehicles (cars, trucks, planes, ships), livestock operations, individual homes and small factories are much more difficult to calculate, yet make up a significant portion of total GHG emissions nonetheless. The transportation sector alone is estimated to emit 27% of all U.S. greenhouse gases.

Along with the publication of the raw emissions data, EPA also created a rich, interactive tool that allows users to view and sort GHG data by facility, location, industrial sector and the type of GHG emitted.

The U.S. greenhouse gas inventory will grow even more robust later this year when an additional 12 source categories will begin reporting their GHG data.

Article by Timothy Hurst, appearing courtesy ecopolitology.

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