A trio of environmental watchdog groups just released their study of the amount of smokestack emissions coming from the top 100 electrical power producers in the country. I note that International Paper and Alcoa are included as major producers, too; this should indicate how comprehensive a list the top 100 would be, since major industrial concerns even qualify. The report is linked from here: http://www.nrdc.org/air/pollution/benchmarking/default.asp
While my own Progress Energy is reported in the media as one of "the top 15 in air emissions" ("Progress among top producers" is the headline in Triangle Business Journal), as usual there are a few pieces of data which paint a very different story. The key overall is not the simple sum of all emissions, but the rate compared to the output. Here's the story from the report's own data:
- Duke Power and Progress Energy are the 8th and 9th largest producers of electricity in the U.S., respectively
- On sulphur dioxide, looking at pounds of emission per megawatt-hour of electricity produced, Progress is 23rd in the country (with more scrubbers coming online since the data was collected) and Duke is 41
- Mercury from coal-fired plants, Progress is number 46 and Duke is 59
- Carbon dioxide, 55 and 67
- Nitrous oxides, 66 and 80
So in other words, both companies are in the top 10% of electricity producers, yet for most measures, they put less junk up the stack for each megawatt of power than over half of the industry leaders. Comparisons aren't everything, but it tells me that North Carolina's power producers are doing pretty well for the industry.