Mapping major emitters with EPA’s greenhouse gas tool

If you’re curious about the industrial operations that are emitting greenhouse gases (GHG) in your state or neighborhood, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a great data tool that also provides some helpful context with its visualizations.

Data is only available for 2011, but EPA’s tool provides a wealth of information for interested citizens and environmental experts alike. The tool only reports on facilities that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of GHGs a year, but these major emitters, such as power plants and refineries, account for more than half of the nation’s total GHG output.

The maps, which can be analyzed by state and county, show the location of GHG emitters; suppliers of fossil fuels and industrial chemicals; onshore gas production facilities; local energy distribution companies; and the handful of facilities that inject CO2 underground. The maps will tell you how many facilities are in a given location and, if you keep zooming in, you get to facility-level data. For example, in Washington you can click on facilities in Bellevue and get to Puget Sound Energy, as shown below.

EPA GHG map 1

If you click on “View reported data,” you’ll be sent to another EPA database page that provides greater detail.

Aside from just clicking through points on the map, you can search for facilities by name or location. You can also filter data by type of GHG, or by the quantity of emissions.

Where the data tool really comes to life is in the mapping of coverage areas for local energy companies. Still using Puget Sound Energy as our example, the mapped data shifts from the point source facility to the region served by the utility.

EPA GHG map 2

Below the map, EPA provides some context for the sector you are viewing, in this case petroleum and natural gas systems in the state. Washington has five such facilities that reported 702,285 metric tons of CO2-equivalent in 2011. At 665,994 metric tons, Puget Sound Energy is responsible for the vast majority of emissions associated with the state’s energy supply.

You can easily get a snapshot of statewide GHG emissions by playing with the “Data View” buttons on the top right of the GHG tool web page. In Washington, power plants and refineries account for the bulk of reported GHG emissions. Clicking on the pie chart instead of the bar chart displace the same data in more intuitive percentages.

EPA GHG map 3

To learn more about state-level GHG data, see our other posts: “Greenhouse gases: how do Western states compare?” and “Flow diagrams of U.S. and Western carbon emissions.”

EcoWest’s mission is to analyze, visualize, and share data on environmental trends in the North American West. Please subscribe to our RSS feed, opt-in for email updates, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook.

Greenhouse gases: how do Western states compare?

One of the great challenges in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is that the pollution emanates from so many activities and economic sectors. In this set of slides, we examine the sources of heat-trapping GHGs, with a focus on Western states.

Greenhouse gas emissions overview from EcoWest on Vimeo.

Nationally, nearly one third of GHG emissions come from providing electricity and heat to buildings, and more than one quarter is from transportation, mostly driving. GHG emissions have risen steadily since 1990, with growth slowing in the mid-2000s, partly due to efficiency improvements in the transportation and electricity sectors, and also thanks to a slowing economy.

Using data from the World Resources Institute, we found that on average since 1990 the West has contributed 15-17% of national GHG emissions. Overall, the source profile for the West is very similar to that of the United States as a whole, but there are some important state-by-state differences. With an enormous economy and population, California leads the pack in GHG emissions, but power generation accounts for a much smaller share of those emissions than it does in states in the inland West. One major reason is that California imports a good deal of power from places like the Four Corners states. California also produces substantial electricity from hydropower dams and other renewable sources.

Western states GHG map

Transportation accounts for nearly half of California’s GHG emissions, in part due to the high level of auto-dependence in such a large, sprawling state, but also due to the presence of major transport hubs, such as the massive ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

On the bright side, California leads the country in per capita energy efficiency. The state’s 37 million residents use 6,700 kilowatts yearly on average, while the 25 million residents in Texas consume an average of 14,000 kilowatts a year. Wyoming residents use a whopping 27,000 kilowatts per capita annually.

Western states not only vary in their emissions profiles and energy efficiency; they also absorb widely varying amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Heavily forested states, such as Washington and Oregon, have some of the largest carbon sinks, while states in the arid Southwest, such as Arizona and New Mexico, have much less vegetation to soak up all that carbon we’re emitting.

Downloads

Download Slides: Greenhouse Gas Emissions OverviewDownload Slides: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Overview (3.12 MB pptx)
Download Notes: Greenhouse Gas Emissions OverviewDownload Notes: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Overview (639.7 kB pdf)
Download Data: Air Pollution OverviewDownload Data: Air Pollution Overview (363.25 kB xlsx)

Related posts

EcoWest’s mission is to analyze, visualize, and share data on environmental trends in the North American West. Please subscribe to our RSS feed, opt-in for email updates, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook.

Flow diagrams of U.S. and Western carbon emissions

The United States emits around 5.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) each year. That’s roughly the annual CO2 exhaust of 1.2 billion cars, according to the U.S. EPA’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) equivalency calculator, and it’s nearly 20 percent of annual global GHG emissions.

U.S. and Western carbon flow diagrams from EcoWest on Vimeo.
Flow diagrams from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory provide informative visual summaries of the nation’s carbon emissions from generation to end use. These graphics, also known as Sankey diagrams, show how many GHGs originate from the burning of fuels and how many GHGs are attributable to different economic sectors. Think of the left side of the flow as the supply side, and the right as the demand side. In this deck, I’ve also compiled slides representing GHG emissions in the 11 Western states, which show some interesting patterns in GHG emissions from origin to end use.

Data on GHG emissions is only available at the national level. To understand state-by-state differences, Lawrence Livermore uses state-level energy use data to estimate the flow of GHGs. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration compiles such energy use data in the State Energy Data System (SEDS).

Sankey carbon

U.S. carbon emissions are generated by burning coal, natural gas, and petroleum products (gasoline, diesel, etc.); roughly 35%, 23%, and 42% of 2010 emissions, respectively. The carbon flows in individual states vary widely depending on state energy portfolios. End uses differ according to what industries predominate and population levels. Some of the patterns that jump out:

  • California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington are less coal-dependent and more petroleum dependent.
  • Natural gas accounts for a higher portion of carbon emissions in states like Nevada and Oregon.
  • Petroleum accounts for a lower portion of carbon emissions in Colorado and Wyoming.

Comparing Washington to Wyoming demonstrates how end use differs by state. Energy generation accounts for the bulk of carbon emissions in Wyoming, but the transportation and industrial sectors dominate in Washington. Wyoming is a major energy exporter to other states, while Washington relies heavily on hydropower, which does is essentially carbon-free.

When examining these slides, it’s important to remember that the size of the rectangles and the lines between them are not comparable from state to state. They show, within a state, where GHGs originate and terminate in various uses.

Lawrence Livermore also produces similar graphics for energy and water, and in another post, we provide a little background on Sankey diagrams, which are great tools for visualizing how commodities flow through systems.

Downloads

Download slides: carbon flow diagramsDownload slides: carbon flow diagrams (4.03 MB pptx)
Download notes: carbon flow diagramsDownload notes: carbon flow diagrams (2.36 MB pdf)

Related posts

EcoWest’s mission is to analyze, visualize, and share data on environmental trends in the North American West. Please subscribe to our RSS feed, opt-in for email updates, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook.

Our air is cleaner, but big challenges remain

40 years after the Clean Air Act became law, what are the major air quality issues in the West?

We’ve made significant progress in reducing pollution since the Clean Air Act (CAA) was enacted more than 40 years ago, even during a period of strong economic growth. Just since 1990, when the CAA was last amended, GDP is up 65%, while aggregate emissions of the six major pollutants that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates are down 59%. In this batch of slides, we show that the greatest improvements have been in reducing sulfur dioxide, lead, and carbon monoxide. But there’s still a lot of work ahead, both nationally and in the West. Progress has been less substantial in reducing particulates and ground-level ozone. Despite advances in technology and stricter regulations, millions of Westerners remain exposed to toxic air pollution.

Air pollution overview from EcoWest on Vimeo.

California still leads the country in “bad air days,” largely due to pollution in Los Angeles but also the Sacramento area. Bad air days result primarily from the slower progress made in reducing particulate matter (PM2.5) and oxides of nitrogen, a precursor to ground-level ozone.

As with population and economic activity, California tends to dominate the West’s air quality profile. When viewed in the national context, California’s emissions levels, air-pollutant based cancer risks, and bad air days have more in common with the populous eastern United States than other Western states.

Several of the slides examine emissions by major pollutant, using EPA’s 2008 inventory. California leads other states in particulate matter (which originates in smoke and dust), oxides of nitrogen (which come from power plants and fuel combustion), volatile organic compounds (which emanate from consumer products, paints, and industrial chemicals), and carbon monoxide (which primarily stems from motor vehicles).

Sulfur dioxide differs from the other major pollutants examined here. Fuel technology advances have largely controlled SO2 emissions from motor vehicles; SO2 emissions now primarily come from aging coal-fired power plants, older generating stations, and mineral extraction, sources that are concentrated in Wyoming, Colorado, and Arizona.

Downloads

Download Slides: Air Pollution OverviewDownload Slides: Air Pollution Overview (9.28 MB pptx)
Download Notes: Air Pollution OverviewDownload Notes: Air Pollution Overview (1.29 MB pdf)
Download Data: Air Pollution OverviewDownload Data: Air Pollution Overview (363.25 kB xlsx)

Related posts

EcoWest’s mission is to analyze, visualize, and share data on environmental trends in the North American West. Please subscribe to our RSS feed, opt-in for email updates, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook.

Wind and ocean currents visualized

You may not need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, but the data that climate researchers collect can certainly deliver some beautiful visualizations of the currents constantly swirling in the skies and oceans.

Witness the Perpetual Ocean, a project of NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio. This video, shown below, depicts the flow of ocean currents around the globe. Others have noted how the viz resembles van Gogh’s Starry Night painting.

Similarly, a couple of ex-Google employes have produced a great visualization of winds in the United States. The map from hint.fm is updated hourly with data from the National Digital Forecast Database. The viz doesn’t embed easily, but below is a screenshot of the map.

Wind map