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CO2 From US Power Plants Said To Show Biggest Jump In Decade

Mar 18, 2008 - Dow Jones Newswire

The amount of carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas, released by the nation's power plants grew by nearly 3% last year, the largest annual increase in nearly a decade, an environmental group said Tuesday.

The analysis of government emissions figures covered more than 1,000 plants including those burning coal, natural gas and oil.

The report by the Environmental Integrity Project, a Washington-based advocacy group, said that the 2.9% increase in CO2 releases outpaced a 2.3% year-to-year increase in electricity production.

"Carbon emissions actually increased faster than (electricity) demand," said Eric Schaeffer, the group's executive director. He said reduced efficiency of older coal-burning power plants that often are some of the largest coal burners may have been one reason for the CO2 increase.

The report said that Texas, Georgia, Arizona, California and Pennsylvania had the biggest one-year increases.

Bill Sang, climate issues director for the Edison Electric Institute, said the increase reflected greater demand for power last year and a shortage of hydroelectric power that forced utilities to shift to fossil fuels.

"We think as much as two-thirds of the (CO2) increase was due to increased demand for electricity," said Sang, whose organization represents utilities that generate 70% of the electricity.

Carbon dioxide is the leading so-called "greenhouse gas" that is linked to global warming. It is a product of burning fossil fuels. Power plants account for nearly 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year, about a third of the U.S. total.

"The amount that we're emitting today makes any long-term (reduction) goals that much harder to reach," said Schaeffer.

Melissa McHenry, spokeswoman for Ohio-based American Electric Power (AEP), which has 25 coal-burning power plants in nine states, said her company showed a 2.8% increase in CO2 emission in 2007, but "we also saw a 3.6% increase in electricity demand." She said AEP is investing in wind generation and purchasing carbon "offsets" through a carbon exchange program.

According to the environmental group's analysis, the most CO2 in 2007 came from power plants in Texas, 262 million tons; Ohio, 138.6 million tons; Florida, 134.5 million tons; Indiana, 132 million tons; and Pennsylvania, 123.6 million tons. Those numbers did not take into account amount of power produced.

States where plants release the most CO2 per megawatt-hour of electricity generated were North Dakota, Wyoming, Kentucky, Indiana and Utah.