Yesterday I told you about an informative new U.S. EPA greenhouse gas emissions database detailing the nation's larger sources of greenhouse gas emissions. In total, the database contains information on facilities that account for about 80 percent of the country's greenhouse gas emissions. It excludes the agricultural sector and transportation.
My colleague Alyson Kenward sliced and diced the database, and came away with some interesting facts. According to her:
If you live in Atlanta, you're within an hour's drive (without traffic) of the two largest emitters in the country. Both are coal-fired power plants within 75 miles of the city.
Emitters in Texas, including power plants, refineries and chemical companies, produce nearly 400 million metric tons of greenhouse gases each year, which is more than double any other state. (Before you go messing with Texas, it should be noted that Texas is also the nation's largest producer of wind energy).
On a per capita basis, Texas isn't the worst offender. Wyoming is. In Texas, the big emitters account for about 15 tons of CO2 for every person in the state. The power plants in Wyoming are producing over 100 tons of CO2 for every person living in the state — almost twice as much as the next state on this list, North Dakota. Wyoming gets more than 90 percent of its electricity from coal power, and it is also a major producer of coal burned in other states or shipped overseas.
- In Califor...
The U.S. EPA unveiled a new point-and-click database showing greenhouse gas emissions from the country's largest polluters. The tool is pretty slick, allowing you to quickly locate the largest emitters in the country — a coal-fired power plant in Georgia takes the prize for the biggest single emitter in the U.S. — or drill down to see the emissions from power plants in your home state.
The database contains 2010 data from 6,700 of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emitters in the country, which is defined as those generating 25,000 metric tons or more of carbon dioxide equivalent. The data captures about 80 percent of total U.S. emissions in 2010, the EPA reported.
Congress required the EPA to gather the data, and it represents a step toward regulating the emissions from the nation's largest stationary sources of greenhouse gas emissions (agriculture and transportation emissions are not included).
In addition to serving as the foundation for regulations, the EPA hopes energy companies and the public use the data to improve their decision making.
According to an EPA news release, the data show that:
- Power plants were the largest stationary sources of direct emissions with 2,324 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (mmtCO2e), followed by petroleum refineries.
- Carbon dioxide accounted for the largest share of direct GHG emissions with 95 percent, followed by methane with 4 percent, and nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases acc...
Although China has fallen far short of its ambitious goals to manufacture hundreds of thousands of all-electric and hybrid cars and buses each year, the country is taking tangible steps toward increasing the use of these alternative vehicles, according to an article in the New York Times. Each year, China can produce several thousand hybrid and all-electric cars and buses, the Times reports, a far cry from the 500,000 the country was aiming for by the end of 2011.
Demonstration projects currently are taking place across the country, which may signal how the Chinese auto fleet will evolve in the near future. According to the Times, in an interesting twist, the state-run electric companies are behind the push to boost all-electric vehicles. This is in contrast to the U.S., where efforts are being led by the auto manufacturers themselves.
As the Times reports:
"With China expected to surpass the United States in the number of all vehicles on the road by as early as 2020, the government-run utilities see it as their job to provide an alternative to imported oil as a way to power several hundred million cars, trucks and buses..."
"Although automakers in other countries have supplied charging equipment to be installed at homes and parking lots, China’s power industry has already made it clear that it wants to dictate when and how plug-in gasoline-electric hybrids and all-electric cars are charged, by owning the charging equipment and setting technical sta...
Wind energy is growing in popularity — as illustrated by the growing number of wind turbines popping up across the country — largely because its greenhouse gas emissions are negligible. But that isn’t the only reason. It’s also valuable because we’re not about to run out of wind anytime soon.
But there is something unfortunate about all the new turbines being built across the country: they aren’t capturing the most powerful winds available.
Typical turbines are about 100 feet tall, but the real action is a few thousand feet above the Earth’s surface. Up there, and at much higher altitudes, the winds blow more strongly and a lot more consistently, and that means there is a lot more energy up for grabs.
“We find that there’s more than 100 times the power necessary to power civilization in these high altitude winds,” explains Stanford University climate scientist Ken Caldeira, in this recent video. The video, produced by QUEST from Northern California’s KQED network, shows how some researchers are exploring ways to access the high altitude winds, with turbines that fly through the air like kites.
One company profiled in the story, Makani Power, is just one of several companies exploring high altitude wind energy. Sky WindPower, Magenn, and Joby Energy each have unique designs they think have potential to capture energy thousands of feet in the air. All the companies are still testing small-scale prototypes, however, so it’s going to be years before large comme...
A solar energy farm in St. George, Utah is just one of hundreds of solar arrays across the country. The solar industry is growing exponentially, but it still makes up just a fraction of our total energy supply. Credit: Carl Berger/flickr.
Since the solar energy technology manufacturer Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in late August, there’s been mounting concerns about whether America’s "green jobs" are at risk, and if renewable energy subsidies from the government are in jeopardy. But the pessimism and partisanship in Washington regarding Solyndra (and other cutting-edge energy firms that have received Energy Department loans) is clouding the bigger picture: solar energy is actually one of the fastest growing industries in the country, and there are more people working in solar technology today than in greenhouse gas intensive coal mines and steel factories.
With so many companies in the solar game, this controversy may well be just a small hiccup along solar’s path to becoming a major source of America’s electricity.
But what is solar energy's timeline? Is it already on the verge of replacing fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas, or will it take decades before we see solar energy contribute a significant proportion of the nation's energy supply?
Well, that depends a lot on how hard the U.S. pushes policies that would boost cleaner, renewable sources of energy.
Here’s a snapshot of the current state of solar energy in America.
Today, there are about 3.1 gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity in the U.S., which can supply energy to up to half a million homes. Yet, compared to coal and natural gas-fired power plants, which emit harmful greenhouse gases, solar provides a tiny p...