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Economy Spikes U.S. Power Plant Carbon Output: Group

Date: 21-Feb-11
Country: USA
Author: Timothy Gardner

A stronger economy helped push up U.S. power plant emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in 2010 by the highest annual rate on record, a report said on Friday.

The economy and air conditioning demand from a warm summer sent emissions up 5.56 percent to 2.42 billion metric tons in 2010, according to the report by the Environmental Integrity Project based on data by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"Great news about the economy recovering, but carbon grew faster than the economy, which shows a lot of old inefficient coal plants were pumping out electricity last year," said EIP director Eric Schaeffer. He co-founded the nonprofit, nonpartisan group in 2002 with fellow former EPA enforcement lawyers.

The recession pushed emissions down in 2009, but the recovery in 2010 showed how quickly they can rise once the economy gets stronger.

The 2010 rise was the highest jump in emissions since 1995, when the EPA began keeping data, but the total carbon emissions from power plants were still below the record of 2.57 billion metric tons set in 2007.

Environmentalists are worried that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives could hurt the government's ability to fight climate change, especially after last year tied 2005 as the hottest year globally on record.

"Global warming will not disappear because our politicians choose to pretend it does not exist," Schaeffer said.

House Republicans have pushed for spending cuts this year for climate programs across the federal government, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the State Department.

President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats in the Senate are likely to reject most of the cuts. Obama has pledged the country would cut emissions about 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

But the Senate also has some climate skeptics including James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who has called human-caused global warming a hoax.

Emissions from power plants account for about a third of the carbon output from the United States, the world's second leading greenhouse gas emitter after China.

Overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have risen about 7.4 percent since 1990, according to the EPA.

The state of Texas, which opened three new coal-fired power plants in late 2010, led the country in carbon emissions from power plants last year with nearly 257 million metric tons of output. Top emissions were then followed by Florida, Ohio and Indiana.

(Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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