How many tons of greenhouse gases are coming out of that smokestack? For the first time, people around the U.S. can get answers to that question instantly with a new online interactive tool — the topic of an article in the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.
Jeff Johnson, C&EN senior correspondent, explains that the web-based tool, developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), gives people the power to analyze greenhouse gas emissions from 6,700 electric power-generating stations, chemical plants, refineries and other facilities. Based on self-reporting required by a 2008 federal law, the tool was developed to display data from the 2010 calendar year. The data only cover the largest greenhouse gas emitters but include about 80 percent of the emissions from stationary sources. (Stationary sources, such as factories, emit about 40 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gases.)
With the tool, users can limit the data to certain types of facilities (power plants or refineries, for example) and can close in on a specific facility on the map. Users also can sort the data by industry sector and location. Mining the data shows that carbon dioxide accounts for 95 percent of direct greenhouse gas emissions, followed by methane at 4 percent and other gases at 1 percent. The EPA plans to refine and upgrade the tool and will start collecting 2011 data next month.