Power Plant CO2 Drops 3.1 Percent in 2008, Report Says

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 in an April 6 press release that the one-year dip is a departure from the recent trends in power plant CO2 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.

Despite the slight overall national improvement, 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).

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."

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) and 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.

The EIP report is available at http://www.environmentalintegrity.org.