Cleaner Air

Can we cut harmful CO2 emissions?

Can we cut harmful CO2 emissions?

No One likes breathing in noxious fumes and air tainted with pollutants. In places like Maine, clean air and pure water are both essential elements of the state’s brand, and well worth holding onto.

Air pollution still poses a health risk for many Americans. Diseases like asthma, COPD, even heart attacks can be exacerbated by exposure to the various elements and particulates that cause air pollution.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the driving forces in worsening air pollution around the world, and is a major element in global warming. New climate models show that a warming world and CO2 are a deadly duo. Anything we can do to lower CO2 emissions is a step in a positive direction.

One major source of CO2 is power plant emissions. An EPA study in 2010 indicated that U.S. power plants released 72 percent of the greenhouse gases reported to the agency. It’s no surprise that according to an Associated Press analysis of the data, 20 mostly coal-fired power plants in 15 states account for the top-releasing facilities.

If you’re a science-denier, then none of of this matters, and the following news won’t either. However, even if you are on the periphery of the climate change issue and debate, positive news is always welcome and shows that efforts at the federal level, and in local states matter and can help change the way that major industrial polluters look at the issue.

The Benchmarking Air Emissions report, released last week shows that major power plant polluters in some parts of the country are curbing emissions. In fact, the electric industry cut emissions of NOx, SO2 and CO2 in 2011 even as overall electricity generation increased. This was due mainly to the use of natural gas and renewables, rather than previous power sources, like coal.

It was interesting that the report revealed that states like Wyoming, Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana, and North Dakota had the highest CO2 emissions per megawatt-hour of power produced, while Idaho, Vermont, Washington, Oregon, and Maine had the lowest CO2 emissions rates.

We still have a long way to go to ensure that air quality and dangerous emissions that contribute to global warming are reduced, but there are signs that industry is paying attention to government efforts to mandate lower levels of CO2.