November 15, 2007 in Nation/World

Developing countries have world’s dirtiest power utilities

Juliet Eilperin Washington Post
 

Pollution pace

•The U.S. produces the most carbon dioxide from electricity generation: 2.8 billion tons each year.

•China is close to overtaking it with its 2.7 billion tons.

WASHINGTON – Developing countries – China, South Africa and India – host the world’s five dirtiest utility companies in terms of global warming pollution, according to the first-ever worldwide database of power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions, while a single Southern Co. plant in Juliet, Ga., emits more annually than Brazil’s entire power sector.

The analysis, released Wednesday by the Washington-based think tank Global Development Group, a nonprofit that focuses on how the actions of rich countries affect developing nations, provides a detailed inventory of power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions by region across the globe. The database shows the United States as the world’s biggest carbon dioxide, or CO2, emitter and how quickly it will be outpaced by rapidly industrializing nations.

While the United States still produces the most carbon dioxide from electricity generation, releasing 2.8 billion tons of CO2 each year, China is close to overtaking it, with its 2.7 billion tons. Moreover, China plans to build or expand 199 coal-fired facilities in the next decade, compared with the United States’ 83.

Power plants account for 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and 25 percent of the world’s.

Frank O’Donnell, who heads the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, called the new analysis “pretty shocking.” “If we’re serious about dealing with global warming, we are going to have to get a handle on coal-burning electric power in this country,” he said.

Duke Energy Chairman and President James Rogers – whose company is the third-largest CO2-emitting utility in the country and 12th in the world – agreed.

“I have a special responsibility to work on this issue because my company’s carbon footprint is so big,” he said. But Rogers added that the fact that certain regions are more dependent on coal than others means he would oppose any effort to auction off carbon allowances, as envisioned in a new Senate bill.

Upgrading or replacing aging plants is key, O’Donnell said, since 72 percent of the nation’s 500 coal-fired plants were built in the 1970s.

The Ohio River Valley, the Southeast and Texas rank as the dirtiest U.S. regions in terms of greenhouse gas-emitting power plants.


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