September 20, 2013 – Today Gina McCarthy (seen below), the administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing CO2 emission limits for new gas-fired and coal-fired power plants. The new limits are 453 kilograms (1,000 pounds) of CO2 per Megawatt hour for the former and 499 kilograms (1,100 pounds) per Megawatt hour for the latter. In 2012 the EPA measured the average CO2 output from all electricity sources at 593 kilograms (1,307 pounds) per Megawatt hour. In setting these new targets for gas and coal power plants the EPA is establishing a threshold below current average emissions. How do the targets compare with current emissions from advanced coal-fired power plants? A CO2 reduction of about 45% for gas-burning and 39% for coal-burning utilities.
An average home in the United States consumes about 12.25 Megawatt hours of electricity per year. In 2011 the United States had 116.17 million homes. In total they consumed 1,424 billion Kilowatt-hours of electricity. In announcing these reduction targets McCarthy, therefore, is setting the bar for an average American home to reduce its carbon footprint from 7,262 kilograms (16,010 pounds) to 6,112 kilograms (13,475 pounds) of CO2 per year, a drop of 16%. When you put it that way the announced reductions are not as significant as they need to be to really tackle the problem of overall greenhouse gas emissions. But at least with the multiplier effect of all those homes, the targets will reduce total emissions coming from residential sources.