In the United States, Ohio’s power plants pollute more than all but Texas’ power plants, making Ohio one of the nation’s leading contributors to global warming, according to a Sept. 10 report from Environment Ohio.
“America’s dirtiest power plants are the elephant in the room when it comes to global warming,” said Kathryn Lee, field associate for Environment Ohio, in a statement. “If we want a cleaner, safer future for our kids, we can’t afford to ignore power plants’ overwhelming contribution to global warming. For Ohio, tackling the problem means cleaning up the dirtiest power plants.”
Power plants are responsible for 41 percent of the United States’ carbon dioxide pollution, which means they contribute more to global warming than any other source in the nation, according to the report.
“Dirty power plants produce a disproportionate share of the nation’s global warming pollution — especially given the relatively small share of total electricity they produce. For example, despite producing 30 percent of all power-sector carbon dioxide emissions, the 50 dirtiest power plants only produced 16 percent of the nation’s electricity in 2011,” the report found.
The report narrows down the pollution problem to specific power plants and the disproportionate amount of greenhouse gases they emit: “The dirtiest power plant in the United States, Georgia Power’s Plant Scherer, produced more than 21 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2011 — more than the total energy-related emissions of Maine.”
The report ultimately calls on regulators to encourage alternative energy sources and curtail greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
Specifically, the report asks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to meet a timeline put forth by President Barack Obama for setting strict limits and regulations on how much future and existing power plants can pollute.
In 2008, Ohio passed its Clean Energy Law to require and incentivize Ohio companies to pursue energy portfolios that are cleaner, more efficient and more diverse.
Environment Ohio has consistently called on state legislators to strengthen the standards, with the latest report suggesting goals that would require even more clean, renewable energy sources than Ohio currently mandates.
But even the renewable energy standards that Environment Ohio deems too weak are likely to be diminished by a proposal from State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), following an aggressive lobbying effort from national conservative groups.
Seitz is a member of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has teamed up with the conservative Heartland Institute to dismantle state energy regulations. The two conservative groups deny global warming is driven by human actions, even though scientists reportedly said they’re 95 percent certain humans are contributing to global warming in a leaked report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Another report from Environment Ohio found Ohio’s standards, which require utility companies get 12.5 percent of their energy needs from renewable sources, have spurred clean energy projects in Cincinnati and the rest of the state. In 2011, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden used the state incentives to install solar panels in its parking lot that will generate enough electricity to meet 20 percent of the zoo’s electricity needs and reduce pollution associated with global warming by 1,775 tons annually, according to the report.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati has taken its own actions.
“The city has been a leader in greenhouse gas reduction efforts since adopting the Green Cincinnati Plan in 2007,” said Larry Falkin, director of the Office of Environmental Quality of the City of Cincinnati, in a statement. “We have succeeded in reducing emissions by more than 8 percent through measures including energy efficiency, renewable energy and alternative fuel vehicles. What we have learned is that if you do it right, climate protection work saves more than it costs, improves public health and improves the quality of life.”
Still, some companies argue the standards impose unreasonable costs on businesses and customers. Akron-based utility company FirstEnergy previously asked for a review of Ohio’s energy efficiency standards to address the concerns, but Seitz told Gongwer that the efficiency standards will remain untouched by his legislation.
Scientists have historically called for reducing global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. That wouldn’t involve immediately eliminating all carbon pollution — such a goal is widely viewed as unrealistic — but it would likely require the United States and other developed countries to cut their carbon pollution by 80 to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, according to the IPCC’s 2007 report.
With its latest report, Environment Ohio is aiming to push the country in that direction.