Friday, June 8, 2007

Who Emits the Most Greenhouse Gases

Nell Boyce of NPR sets out to find out the single biggest source for greenhouse gas emissions in the US, and learns a lot about how information about emissions is collected (or not.) Here is an excerpt of the written version:
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) met with me in her office on Capitol Hill. She says, if we're ever going to limit greenhouse gas emissions, we need to know exactly who is emitting what. And right now, she says, that's not happening. But Klobuchar says 31 states are now calling for a national carbon registry.
She and Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican from Maine, have introduced a new bill to create that kind of national registry. It would require facilities to report their emissions, using the same system that is already in place for many pollutants.
If that proposal becomes law, the United States will become a lot more like its northern neighbor. Canada requires all of its biggest emitters to report.
Charles Elliott works near Ottawa for Environment Canada, a government agency. He says all the information is publicly available on a handy Web site. So, let's say you wanted to know which cement factory in Canada spews the most greenhouse gases.
That would be St Mary's Cement in Bowmanville, Elliott says after the tapping of a few keys. The company reported close to 1.5 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions.
And if you want to know the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in Canada, Elliott can say for sure: "That would be the Nanticoke Power Generation Facility, which is an electricity plant that's here in the province of Ontario."
I drove down to see it. When you're standing right next to it, it doesn't look all that impressive. There are some big power lines, but otherwise it looks just like any factory by a lake. The smokestacks don't seem to be emitting anything. But in reality, the equivalent of around 17 million tons of greenhouse gases comes out of them every year.
"It certainly is educational for people, I think, to have this data available to them. Otherwise you'd just drive by it and just say, 'Oh, that's a coal power plant,'" Elliott says.
He adds that Canada isn't collecting all this information just for kicks. It's the first step toward restricting emissions; Canada announced this spring that it plans to set tough new limits for industrial emitters. But Elliott says the public also is just interested in knowing what's what.

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