Report: U.S. power plants world’s 3rd largest carbon polluters, edging out India

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Environment America

New York, NY–As world leaders prepare to gather here for the United Nations Climate Summit next week, a new study shows that U.S. power plants alone produce more carbon pollution than the entire economies of India, Russia, Japan or any other nation besides China.

The Environment America Research & Policy Center report, America’s Dirtiest Power Plants, comes as more than a hundred thousand activists plan to march for solutions to climate change, which scientists say is already happening and will worsen without aggressive action to curb emissions.

“U.S. power plants are polluters on a global scale,” said Elizabeth Ouzts of Environment America Research & Policy Center. “It’s time to stop ignoring our largest global warming polluter, and start a major transition to clean power.”

In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. If enacted, the limits would be the largest step the United States has ever taken to cut global warming emissions.

By comparing carbon emissions from U.S. power plants in 2012 to economy-wide carbon emissions of other countries, the Environment America analysis shows why limiting pollution from power plants would be so significant. Key findings include:

  • In 2012, U.S. power plants produced more than 6 percent of global warming emissions worldwide — more than any other industrialized nation except China and the U.S. as a whole.
  • The 50 dirtiest U.S. power plants produced 30 percent of all power-sector carbon dioxide emissions in 2012, the same as the entire economy of South Korea, the world’s 7th-largest carbon emitter.
  • The 100 dirtiest U.S. power plants produced 19 percent of all power-sector carbon dioxide emissions, the same as Germany, the 6th largest carbon emitter.
  • The Clean Power Plan would eliminate as much carbon pollution as the entire country of Canada produced in 2012. Canada is the 8th largest carbon emitter in the world.

The Clean Power Plan would also spur investments in clean energy like wind and solar power, for which there is vast potential across the country.

Americans have submitted more than 6 million comments to EPA supporting limits on carbon pollution from power plants; and more than a thousand people testified in support of the Clean Power Plan at hearings held across the country this summer.  Elected officials, small businesses owners and numerous members of Congress have all voiced support for limits on carbon pollution.

“For too long, power plants and other major polluters have enjoyed a holiday from responsibility,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). “Rhode Island and some parts of the country have taken steps to cut carbon pollution and invest in clean energy, but this report shows why federal carbon pollution standards are necessary to protect public health, our communities, and future generations from the dangerous threat of climate change.”, one of the leading forces behind the upcoming People’s Climate March, joined Environment America across from the UN Building in Manhattan to release the new report.

“In three days, 100,000 people will swarm the streets of midtown Manhattan to demand real solutions from our leaders on climate change,” said May Boeve, Executive Director of “It’s inexcusable that in the most prosperous country on Earth, we’re dragging our feet when it comes to transitioning off power generated by dirty power plants towards a sustainable and reliable clean energy grid. This report shows what’s at stake in our march on Sunday, and why clean power has to be one of the solutions as we address the larger climate crisis.”