Dirty numbers | The 200 Most Polluting Power Plants in the World

The World’s 200 Dirtiest Power Plants

Forbes.com has an interactive map of the dirtiest coal power plants. Click on the graphic below and you’ll be sent directly to the map. Writer Jon Bruner introduces the map:

“Sixty percent of the world’s electricity comes from plants burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon. Many of the highest-emission plants are concentrated in the United States and East Asia. Here, a look at the world’s 200 biggest carbon offenders among power plants. Roll over any plant for more information.”

Click to go to interactive map

Click to go to interactive map

Taichung power plant

Taichung plantThe “worst of the worst” is Taiwan’s Taichung power plant, emitting 40 million tons of carbon annually.

That’s a lot of carbon, a lot of CO2 pumped up into earth’s atmosphere forcing climate change.

America doesn’t have anything of this magnitude, do we?

Not exactly. The dirtiest power plant in the United States is the Robert Scherer power plant near Juliette, Georgia.

Each year, it produces 27 million tons of carbon — about 67% of what the Taiwanese plant emits.

Scherer power plant, Georgia

Scherer power plant, Georgia

Twenty-seven million tons of carbon is still a lot to be pumping into the air. And that’s just a fraction of the 800 million tons of carbon produced by the 53 U.S. coal-fired power plants that made Forbes’ “Dirtiest 200” list.

Of course there are several ways to crunch these numbers. For example: by comparing the per capita CO2 emissions between nations.

According to data from the Energy Information Administration, the United States emitted 19.78 tons of CO2 per capita in 2006.

Taiwan emitted “just” 13.19 tons.

That earns the US the number two spot in per capita emissions among nations, with Taiwan coming in at number eight.* (Leading the pack is Australia, with a per capita emissions rate of 20.58 tons.)

Turning, small

Per capita emissions data from:  H.1cco2 World Per Capita Carbon Dioxide Emissions from the Consumption and Flaring of Fossil Fuels, 1980-2006, metric tons of CO2, Energy Information Administration.

* Among countries with populations of five million or more. Although Gibraltar was number one in per capita emissions (with a whopping 160.22 tons), the British colony has a population of 28,000 people. It doesn’t seem helpful to include the Gib or other small nations in this ranking. A country needed to have at least five million residents to be included — or about the same size as Dallas-Ft. Worth.

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6 thoughts on “Dirty numbers | The 200 Most Polluting Power Plants in the World

  1. I checked the EIA data on CO2 emissions, and came up with completely different results:
    1. Australia 12.68 tons per capita
    2. S. Africa 8.60
    3. US 7.91
    4. Poland 6.17
    5. S. Korea 4.37
    6. Germany 4.27
    7. China 4.16
    Are you guys using total CO2 emissions? I thought we were talking about carbon-fired plant pollution. And Christof is right: the average U.S. coal plant releases (according to the EPA):
    6 lb/MWh nitrogen oxides,
    13 lb/MWh sulfur dioxide (precursor to acid rain),
    more than half a pound of fine particulate matter contributing to asthma and other lung diseases per MWh, and
    one hundred times the radiation of a nuclear power plant per MWh (according to Oak Ridge National Labs),
    in addition to a metric ton of carbon dioxide/MWh.

    Finally, if you have a really dark sense of humor, according to EIA information, US coal is, on average, 6% more CO2-emitting than the worldwide average, making it… wait for it…


    • Hi AJ,

      Thanks for the comment. But, yikes, this post was written 6 months ago and I don’t recall all the details. But…there’s a link in my post to the data table I used from the EIA. Have you checked that? If it’s a different table, that would explain the different numbers.

      I understand the point about not always focusing exclusively on CO². I’ve written a fair amount about particulates and NOX and SOX. You can search my blog to find them. This piece concerned the largest coal burning CO² emitters so the other, um, crap, wasn’t listed. Still, that’s a good point to keep in mind.

  2. The biggest power plant generates the most electricity. The map shows an almost 1 to 1 mapping of 1 millions tons of CO2 emitted for each 1 million megawatt-hours of electricity produced annually. This still puts the USA as the biggest output of CO2. While Taiwan’s power plant emits 40 million tons of CO2, it also produces 40 million megawatt-hours of Electricity. They just put all the generating capacity at one point, while the US has it more spread out and produce a greater total output of CO2 from 53 smaller, but still large power plants. We don’t have a list of the smaller less efficient plants that may be emitting more CO2 per watt hour generated. Those less efficient plants should be closed down first.

  3. Thanks for posting this. It’s a great resource, one I’m sure I’ll be using in the future.

    One quick comment: While CO2 obviously matters, and matters a lot, I sure wish we environmentalists would avoid the trap of tunnel vision on carbon. After all, there’s sulfur dioxide, mercury, particulates, etc. all of which have a substantially negative impact on the natural world and on human health.

    One of the biggest problems with the CO2 tunnel vision is that it allows the pro-nuke crowed to claim nuclear is ‘green’, solely on the basis that nuke plants don’t produce CO2. (Never mind that if you include the CO2 to mine uranium, transport it, dispose of it, and to build the mega-nuke plants, nuclear does indeed produce CO2.)

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