The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) February 5 published a second year of Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) data on its website, offering the public insight into an expanded set of more granular nationwide GHG emissions compiled by sector, by greenhouse gas, and by geographic region down to the state and county level.
“Transparency ensures a better informed public, which leads to a better protected environment,” Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation was quoted in a press release. “With this second data release, communities, businesses and others can track and compare facilities’ greenhouse gas emissions and identify opportunities to cut pollution, minimize wasted energy, and save money.”
Greater insight, transparency on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions
“Greenhouse gases are the primary driver of climate change, which can lead to hotter, longer heat waves that threaten the health of the sick, poor or elderly; increases in ground-level ozone pollution linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses; as well as other threats to the health and welfare of Americans,” the EPA notes.
Approximately 8,000 facilities spanning nine industry sectors reported 3.3 billion tons carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) of direct emissions for the 2011 Reporting Year (RY), according to the EPA’s press release.
Just 4 percetn of the facilities reporting under the GHGRP emitted 57 percent of total reported emissions in 2011. Power plants continued to be the largest sources of U.S. GHG emissions, accounting for 67 percent of total emissions reported under the GHGRP. Encouragingly, the power sector’s 2.221 million metric tons CO2e of GHG emissions in 2011 was 4.6 percent below 2010’s total, “reflecting an increase in power generation from natural gas and renewable sources,” the EPA noted.
Reporting data via GHGRP for the first time n 2011 petroleum and natural gas systems were the second largest source of U.S. GHG emissions, with emissions totaling 225 million metric tons (mmt) CO2e. Refineries were the third-largest source, emitting 182 mmtCO2e, a year-to-year increase of 0.5 percent.
Established in 2009, the GHGRP serves as a supplement to the EPA’s U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks (Inventory), a nationwide emissions reporting program that was established more than 20 years ago. GHGRP provides public access to a more detailed view of U.S. GHG emissions gathered directly from the nation’s largest emissions sources, direct and indirect.
The scope of the GHGRP has been gradually expanding since its launch. 2011’s GHGRP report compiles data spanning 29 source categories and now covers between 85%-90% of total nationwide GHG emissions as reported in the annual U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory reports.
“Some industrial sectors, such as metals production and chemicals production, reported overall increases in emissions, while others, such as power plants, reported decreases,” according to the EPA’s latest GHGRP report.
“Overall emissions reported from these 29 sources were 3 percent lower in 2011 than in 2010. In the future the data collected through the program will provide the public with the opportunity to compare emissions and developing trends for all 41 industry types –by facility and sector.”
The EPA’s annual U.S. GHG Emissions Inventory is a more comprehensive, top-down estimate and accounting of total U.S. GHG emissions based on aggregated national data sets that include emissions from transportation and agriculture, as well as industrial sources of GHG emissions. The EPA last April issued a U.S. GHG Emissions Inventory report spanning the two decades from 1990-2010.
As the EPA explains, the U.S. GHG Emissions Inventory provides “estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion, various industrial processes, and agricultural sources. The comprehensive greenhouse gas data presented in the Inventory comprise the official U.S. estimate of total national emissions that is submitted to the United Nations in accordance with the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).”
In contrast, via GHGRP GHG emissions data from the largest sources are submitted directly to the EPA. Three broad types of GHG emitters are required to submit reports: direct emitters, ie. power plants; suppliers, ie. coal, petroleum, natural and other GHG product providers; and facilities that inject CO2 underground.
Collecting data directly from facilities enables the EPA, and the public, to create maps of emissions data by location, sector, and type for industries required to report direct emissions via GHGRP. All this is available online via the EPA’s Facility Level Information on Greenhouse Gases Tool (FLIGHT).
Image credit: EPA