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Kentucky’s Carbon Dioxide Emissions Rate is the Highest in the U.S., Report Says

Arnold Paul, via Wikimedia Commons

  A new report issued by several non-profit and for-profit corporations takes a deeper look at air pollution from power plants in the U.S.

The report ranks the country’s hundred largest power companies by the amount of power they generate—but also measures the tons of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide and mercury their plants emit, as well as the pounds of the pollutants created per megawatt hour generated.

This shows not only the states and utilities that are producing the most pollution, but those that are producing the most pollution relative to the energy they’re generating.

Of the 10 companies with the highest carbon dioxide emission rates, seven are energy cooperatives. The company that emits the most CO2 per megawatt hour of electricity produced is here in Kentucky: Big Rivers Co-op; East Kentucky Power Co-op also made the top 10 list.

In the U.S., Kentucky is producing the most carbon dioxide from power plants for each megawatt hour of energy generated. Dan Bakal of non-profit Ceres said that is largely because of the role carbon-rich coal plays in Kentucky’s energy portfolio.

“It’s largely an indication that Kentucky is very reliant on coal for electricity generation,” he said.

Bakal said over the past decade, there’s been a decoupling between the United States’ economic growth and carbon dioxide emissions. For years, the two metrics moved in concert. But now, Bakal said, they’ve separated.

“What that suggests is that we really can grow the economy and reduce the emissions at the same time,” he said. “Of course, that’s always been one of the biggest taking points of people opposed to reducing emissions, that it will have a significant negative economic impact. But what I think we’re seeing more and more is, you can do both.

“That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, that doesn’t mean there’s no cost involved or no investment required, but it does mean that it’s doable.”

To read the full report, click here.

Erica reports on environment and energy issues for WFPL, which run the gamut from stories about the region’s biodiversity to coal mine safety and pollution issues. In the name of journalism, she’s gone spelunking, tagged mussels and taste-tested bourbon. Erica moved to Louisville in June 2011 from Charleston, West Virginia, where she worked for the state’s public radio and television affiliate. Besides Kentucky and West Virginia, she’s lived in New Jersey, Minnesota and Illinois. She lives with her husband and son in Louisville.
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