One of the main culprits responsible for heating up the greenhouse effect is power-plant emissions. So one (of the many) question(s) asked is: Are we doing a lousy job at curbing power plant emissions?
The polar ice caps are melting, and hurricanes continue to slap around U.S. shores. Winters are becoming tamer. What in the name of God’s green earth is going on? One of the main culprits responsible for heating up the greenhouse effect is power plant emissions, so are we doing a poor job at curbing them?
According to a new report, called Benchmarking Air Emissions of the 100 Largest Electric Power Producers in the United States in 2004, we’re doing a both a good job and bad job. No kidding. (Ed. Note: Could we be more vague?)
The report says that between 1990 and 2004, power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides fell 44 percent and 36 percent, respectively. But here’s the kicker: during the same time, carbon dioxide emissions from power plants increased 27 percent. Unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t end there…
U.S. power companies are proposing to build more than 130 new coal-fired power plants which means that carbon emissions will continue to increase in the coming years as new coal plants are activated. The Energy Information Administration projects a 43 percent increase in carbon dioxide emissions from coal-based power production by 2030. That projection assumes no carbon dioxide pollution controls installed at the plants.
For more information on the adverse effects that carbon dioxide and other power plant emissions has on the environment, check out this comprehensive write-up from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. Hey, they don’t call it “global” warming for nothin’.
Ok, so maybe the news around certain types of power plant emissions aren’t all that rosy, but according to a few other recent news items, every polluted cloud has its silver lining. The state of Maryland, for instance, is ready to face off against various types of emissions by passing aggressive legislation. Dubbed the “The Healthy Air Act”, the law is designed to reduce mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen pollution from the state’s six largest coal-fired plants. The law will also trump air pollution regulations that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. proposed as a cheaper alternative that supported a slower pace in reductions in mercury emissions and would not have dealt with global warming.
“Together with the Chesapeake Bay Restoration, today’s announcement makes Maryland an undisputed national leader in air and water quality protection,” Ehrlich said in a news release.
Here’s how The Healthy Air Act money gets divvied up:
A company called Constellation and the Atlanta-based Mirant Corp., each of which owns three of the six power plants affected by the bill, are expected to add a combined $1.4 billion in air pollution control equipment by 2015 to meet new requirements. Most of the money will be spent to add pollution-control devices called scrubbers. The technology has been available for three decades, but Maryland’s plants haven’t had to add them until now because the facilities were approved before the federal Clean Air Act was passed in 1970. All new coal-fired plants must have scrubbers. Overall, The Healthy Air Act will require about $355 million in pollution filtration systems. Only time will tell if this investment will hold up.
Smaller towns such as Oneonta, New York, also are becoming more proactive in reducing emissions. The Oneonta Environmental Board recently held an open meeting to learn about emissions issues of a proposed wood-burning energy plant. The purpose of the meeting is to educate commissioners and the public about air-quality health issues related to a power plant that might be built in Oneonta by Catalyst Renewables, according to Board Chairman David Hutchison.
And according to the Clean Air Task Force (CATF), “lawmakers from the largest coal-producing states are calling for reductions in power plant emissions, and at a rate and level greater than that being urged by the current Administration through its “Clear Skies” proposal.” For an in-depth and unbiased look at the effect of power plant emissions, be sure to check out CATF’s report from a few years ago called: “Dirty Air, Dirty Power: Mortality and Health Damage Due to Air Pollution from Power Plants”. Definitely required reading.