By the numbers
• 2 billion: number of metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted in 2012 by just under 1,600 facilities.
• 8,000: Number of facilities in the largest greenhouse-gas emitting industries of power plants, oil and gas production and refining, iron and steel mills, and landfills.
• 2: Number of years the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program has been collecting data annually on greenhouse-gas emissions.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday released its third year of greenhouse-gas data detailing carbon-pollution emissions and trends broken down by industrial sector, greenhouse gas, geographic region and individual facility.
The data, required to be collected annually by Congress, highlight a decrease in greenhouse-gas emissions as more utilities switch to cleaner burning natural gas.
“EPA is supporting President Obama’s Climate Action Plan by providing the high-quality data necessary to help guide common-sense solutions to address climate change,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said. “Putting this data in the hands of the public increases transparency, supports accountability, and unlocks innovation.”
Greenhouse gases emitted through human activities such as transportation and power generation are the primary driver of recent climate change, which threatens the health and welfare of Americans by increasing the likelihood of hotter, longer heat waves; fueling more frequent and intense extreme-weather events; and worsening ground-level ozone, which is an air pollutant that causes respiratory and cardiovascular health problems.
The EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program collects annual greenhouse-gas information from more than 8,000 facilities in the largest emitting industries, including power plants, oil and gas production and refining, iron and steel mills, and landfills. In addition, the program is receiving data on the increasing production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons predominantly used in refrigeration and air conditioning. The Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program is the only program that collects facility-level greenhouse gas data from major industrial sources across the United States.
The 2012 data show that in the two years since reporting began, emissions from power plants have decreased 10 percent. This is due to a switch from coal to natural gas for electricity generation and a slight decrease in electricity production. Fossil-fuel fired power plants remain the largest source of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions. With just under 1,600 facilities emitting more than 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, these plants account for roughly 40 percent of total U.S. carbon pollution.
The data are accessible through the EPA’s online data publication tool, FLIGHT, which is available for both desktop and mobile devices. This year, with three years of data for most sources, FLIGHT has been updated with new features, including the ability to view trend graphs by sector and facility, and download charts and graphs for use in presentations and reports. The data also are published through EnviroFacts, which allows the public to download data for further analyses.