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CO2 From Power Plants

Over 80% of CO2 emissions associated with electric power generation in the U.S. are due to coal burning.1 Although carbon dioxide is invisible, The Vulcan Project, directed by Dr. Kevin Gurney at Purdue University, has created a tool to help visualize it.2

The Vulcan Project uses geo-referenced hourly CO2 emissions from all major emitting sources to model the nationwide pattern. The CO2’s dispersion into the atmosphere is simulated using a meteorology model developed at Colorado State University (RAMS, the Regional Atmopheric Modeling System).

In the image above, shades of white marks the density of CO2 emitted from electric-power in the U.S. on June 17th, 2007.  The animated version of the graphic covers a week’s worth of emissions: they cycle up and down as electricity demand rises during the day and drops at night.

The image clearly shows more CO2 emissions from power plants in the Central and Eastern US, where much more coal is burned than in the Western U.S.3 Emissions from Plant Scherer can be seen in the northwest corner of Georgia.

The assistance of Kevin Gurney, Bedrich Benes, and Andrew Schuh in producing this graphic is gratefully acknowledged.

See the related video, Georgia: Coal and Carbon.

  1. Energy Information Administration. “Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the U.S. 2007-Carbon Dioxide Emissions.”
  2. Andrysco, Nathan, Kevin Robert Gurney, Bedrich Benes, and Kathy Corbin. “Visual Exploration of the Vulcan CO2 Data” (PDF) IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications. Volume 29, Issue 1. 2009. Pp. 6-11.
  3. Energy Information Administration. “US Coal Consumption by End Use Sector, by Census Division and State."