50 Dirtiest U.S. Power Plants Huge Contributor to Carbon Emissions
U.S. power plants are an outsized contributor to the world's carbon pollution, a new report released by Environment America Research & Policy Center and the Frontier Group says. It found that in 2012, they added more climate change-causing carbon to the environment than the entire economies of any nation other than China. The report, "America's Dirtiest Power Plants: Polluter on a Global Scale," demonstrated that U.S. power plants produced more than six percent of worldwide global warming emissions.
The report found that a relatively small number of primarily older, coal-fired plants were the main culprits. The 50 dirtiest power plants, less than one percent of all U.S. power plants, produced a whopping 30 percent of power-sector emissions in 2012, 12 percent of all U.S. carbon emissions, and nearly two percent of all the world's carbon emissions. The U.S. has about 6,400 electricity-generating facilities. Yet a single one—the Scherer Power Plant in Georgia—produced .4 percent of U.S. carbon emissions, equivalent to the entire economy of Sri Lanka, which ranks 86th in the world.
"U.S. power plants are polluters on a global scale,” said Elizabeth Ouzts of Environment America Research & Policy Center. “That’s why clean power now must be part of the solution to the climate crisis.”
The report emphasized how much pollution the dirty plants produce relative to their energy production. Coal-fired plants produced 74 percent of U.S. power-plant pollution in 2012 but only 37 percent of its electricity. The 50 dirtiest plants contributed only 15 percent of the nation's electricity.
"U.S. power plants make such an outsized contribution to global warming emissions because so many of them are old and inefficient, and because so many of them run on coal, one of the dirtiest fuels on the planet," said the report, which said that 98 of the country's 100 most carbon-polluting plants ran on coal.
The report recommended that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "strengthen, finalize and implement the Clean Power Plan," and that states begin to implement the plan to meet the standards as quickly as possible, working to quickly phase out the older, polluting plants and move to renewable energy sources. Its series of recommendations also includes urging Congress to pass a national renewable energy standard.
The Environment America Research & Policy Center is among many groups pushing for the Clean Power Plan. Six million comments have been submitted to the EPA and more than a thousand people have testified in hearing held across the country this summer in favor of the plan.
“For too long, power plants and other major polluters have enjoyed a holiday from responsibility,” said Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “Rhode Island and some parts of the country have taken steps to cut carbon pollution and invest in clean energy, but this report shows why federal carbon pollution standards are necessary to protect public health, our communities and future generations from the dangerous threat of climate change.”
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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