Power plants are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. They account for 40 percent of the CO2 pumped into the atmosphere. But up until now, it has been difficult to figure out precisely how much is coming from each plant or company.
A new database and Web site make it easy.
The CARMA Web site (it stands for Carbon Monitoring for Action) tracks the carbon emissions of every electricity generator in the United States and throughout the world — 50,000 power plants and 4,000 companies in all. In a few clicks, the site shows each one's emissions — past, present and future — based on existing plants, those under construction and ones on the drawing board.
The site reveals that just 100 companies account for more than half of all the carbon dioxide emissions from all the power plants in the world. It also shows the likely impact of proposed coal-fired power plants.
CARMA pulls together data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other official sources in Canada, the European Union and India. For plants that don't report emissions, the site relies on industry sources, precise engineering and fuel specifications and statistical models, to estimate CO2 releases.
CARMA was created by the Center for Global Development, a Washington, D.C., think tank that analyzes the policy decisions of wealthy nations and their impact on poor countries. It's focusing on climate change because of the disproportionate risks that the issue poses for the developing world.
The center's David Wheeler, who led the project, says the information should be useful to consumers, investors, politicians and activists who will now find it easier to track greenhouse gas emissions to their source.