Colorado Emits More CO2 from Electricity Generation than France

State is 23rd among U.S. carbon emitters in the electrical generation sectorColorado is 23rd among U.S. states carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, emitting 47.2 million tons a year, according to an online database compiled by the Center for Global Development.

CGD compiled the CO2 emissions for all of the world’s 50,000 power plants, making them available in a massive database. Carbon dioxide is a powerful greenhouse gas, largely responsible for the current warming of the global climate.

Texas is the state emitting the most CO2, at 290 million tons a year, Vermont the least at 437,000 tons. Most of the CO2 in the power sector comes from coal-fired power plants. Colorado produces about 40 million tons of coal annually from local mines, although most of it is burned out of state.

Colorado’s single largest CO2 emitter is the Tri-State G&T Association’s 10,000 megawatt Craig power plant, which currently puts 11.4 million tons of CO2 into the air annually. This is about twice as much as the next closest competitor. Tri-State’s total Colorado operations put about 13 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere annually.

About half of Colorado’s power plant CO2 output 23.1 million tons, comes from 12 power plants owned by Xcel Energy. Most of those emissions are from only six plants:

Comanche power plant in Pueblo, 5.3 million tons;
Cherokee in Denver, 5.3 million tons;
Pawnee in Brush, 4.2 million tons;
Hayden in Hayden, 4.2 million tons;
Valmont in Boulder, 1.5 million tons; and
Arapaho in Denver, 1.3 million tons.

Xcel also has eight smaller power plants that produce a considerable amount of electricity, but with almost no CO2 emissions. These plants are hydroelectric, wind or some other non-CO2 producing energy source.

While Colorado is in the middle of the pack in CO2 emissions from the electric power among states, it still produces more CO2 each year than all but 27 countries in the world. According to the CGD database, the electrical power segment of the entire nation of France produces less carbon dioxide annually – about 45.8 million tons – than Colorado does.

Gov. Bill Ritter recently released a climate action plan that attempts to address issues such as Colorado’s CO2 emissions. The plan calls for increased efficiency, reliance on renewable energy resources, clean coal technologies and carbon sequestration (storing produced carbon in geologic formations) to address carbon emissions from the electric power sector.

The power plant emitting the most CO2 annually in the U.S. is the Scherer plant in Juliette Georgia, at 25.3 million tons a year. Notable plants in the West with high rankings were: Navajo in Page, Arizona, 6th, 19.9 million tons; Jim Bridger in Point of Rocks, Wyoming, 13th, 16.5 million tons; Jeffrey in Saint Marys, Kansas, 16th, 16.3 million tons; and Intermountain in Delta, Utah, 17th, 16.1 million tons.

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Dan Whipple

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