The “Toxic Twenty”: Keeping America’s Lights On

Guest Post by David Middleton

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is out with their latest “Toxic Twenty” list…

The NRDC’s report is standard green claptrap. Kentucky led the Toxic Twenty, “emitting nearly 40.6 million pounds of harmful chemicals” in 2010.

That’s like 20,000 tons in just one year! I guess we better shutter Kentucky’s 72 GWh of electricity generation.

The first thing that crossed my mind was the fact that the “Toxic Twenty” looked a lot like a list of the nation’s top electricity generating States… 

In typical “green fashion” the NRDC casually dismisses this fact, noting that “in 2010, these same states accounted for just 62% of electricity generation.” It boggles the mind. 40% of the States generated more than 60% of the electricity.

Here’s a comparison of April 2010 electricity generation for the “Green Thirty” vs. the “Toxic Twenty”…

If you back out hydroelectric generation, the ratio grows to 68% to 32%. Since the NRDC are probably not fond of dams, I doubt they’d really count that as green electricity.

Here in Texas, we have a saying for groups like the NRDC: “Y’all can freeze in the dark for all we care.”

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59 thoughts on “The “Toxic Twenty”: Keeping America’s Lights On

  1. Back in the day of the first gas crisis in Texas the cowboys would drive around in their big Cadillacs and Lincolns with bumper stickers that said “Drive 90, Freeze A Yankee!”

  2. Didn’t you get the memo from Al Gore that states that electricity is definitely created in the plug in the wall?

  3. Hmm still begs a lot of questions as to why some states proportionally emit more than others (e.g. Texas generates most electricity, but is not the major emitter – is this due to the nature of the fuel?)

  4. Though less sarcastic for a second… “emitting nearly 40.6 million pounds of harmful chemicals”. Classic. Oh my god! 40.6 million tons! About 20 million kilos! WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE! Classic approach. Throw around big, scary looking numbers.

    Those are about 200-odd coal wagons (going by a capacity of 100 tons per wagon, based on a NHYH 120t ‘Bat Girl’ Coal Hopper, which carries 98 tons of coal.) That doesn’t really impress me as “OMG! WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!”

  5. The first thing that crossed my mind was the fact that the “Toxic Twenty” looked a lot like a list of the nation’s top electricity generating States…

    The first thing I did after reading this was to look at the names of the states. There’s a small correlation, but not a lot. Both have Pennsylvania at number three, but otherwise it’s all over the place.

    eg. Number one on the “Toxic Twenty” is number twenty on the top net electricity generation list. Number two on the “Toxic Twenty” is number ten on the other list. The third on both lists is the same, but the fourth and fifth on the “Toxic Twenty” are eleventh and twenty third, respectively on the other list.

    Looking the other way around, the top net electricity generating state is tenth on the “Toxic Twenty” list. Second is sixth on the “Toxic Twenty list, the fourth is forty first, and the fifth is sixteenth.

    I’m sorry, but while the shape of the graphs may be similar, the “Toxic Twenty” list does not look like a list of the nation’s top electricity generating states.

  6. Lot easier to have low emissions when you don’t have any power significant power generation. Color me unimpressed by the quality of NRDC’s work

  7. Severian says August 12, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    Back in the day of the first gas crisis in Texas the cowboys would drive around in their big Cadillacs and Lincolns with bumper stickers that said “Drive 90, Freeze A Yankee!”

    The other fave that sprang up in response to a plethora of ” I *Heart* (Love) NY ” bumper stickers was:

    . . . ” *Heart* NY ? Take I-30 eastbound ”

    No offense NYers …

    .

  8. I would like to point on that Wyoming provides 65% of the coal in this country. As a proud Wyomingite I would like to petition the NRDC to let Wyoming join the proud “Toxic Twenty”. They may generate the electricity but we dig up and ship out the cheap, affordable energy source that fuels them.

  9. Here in Texas, we have a saying for groups like the NRDC: “Y’all can freeze in the dark for all we care”

    Freeze a Yankee
    Freeze a Yankee
    Drive seventy five
    Let’s freeze em alive
    Governor Briscoe promised us
    If any Damnyankees raised a fuss
    We’d cut off the gas
    Cut off the oil
    And let em all freeze and boil.

    A rather popular song here in Texas during the mid-70s. I forget the singer, I was six years old but remember it well. And yes, ‘damnyankee’ is said that way. My dad, who knew his grandparents who lived through reconstruction, jokes that he was 16 years old before he realized that was atually two words. Not looking to argue The War Between the States, or Reconstruction, just an amusing point. To some.

  10. Mt Tongariro, in the centre of NZ North Island, that erupted last monday was emitting 2100 tonnes per day of sulphur dioxide alone. I havent heard of any health warnings and there havent been any evacuations.

    Just getting things in perspective, 10 days at that rate would beat Toxic Kentucky’s yearly production.

    Also there is a 25 000km2 raft of pumice floating in the sea off the NZ coast. Thought to be from an under water eruption but no details on toxic gasses.

  11. What are the toxic chemicals. Just glancing at the graphics, one would guess that they are talking about millions of pounds of mercury. Missed the news about people in Kentucky falling over from mercury poisoning. I view this type of reporting with more than a little skepticism. Years ago American Cyanamid Company was the nation’s leader in “toxic” chemical disposal. Top Polluter. The company made this distinction because it was disposing of ammonium sulfate via deepwell injection and accounted for the chemical and the water. AmCy got a Region 6 environmental excellence award for this process. Still they were the biggest polluter. Reports like this are mostly BS

  12. I wonder if those eco nuts realize that their battery powered cars require those plants to recharge.. without them they are nothing but expensive paperweights..

  13. Tez says:
    August 12, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    Mt Tongariro, in the centre of NZ North Island, that erupted last monday was emitting 2100 tonnes per day of sulphur dioxide alone. I havent heard of any health warnings and there havent been any evacuations.

    Just getting things in perspective, 10 days at that rate would beat Toxic Kentucky’s yearly production.

    Also there is a 25 000km2 raft of pumice floating in the sea off the NZ coast. Thought to be from an under water eruption but no details on toxic gasses.

    ______________________________________

    its rather interesting how eco nutters refuse to see that natural sources by far out toxify anything that man could do… yet they ignore it.. better yet i want to know how they plan to stop it…:)

  14. I do not think skeptics do ourselves any favors by mocking good news of this sort.

    Further, such a large decrease in supposedly deadly toxic chemicals now should make it possible to get reliable observational facts on the impact –if any– of their decrease. So, let’s see what develops there.

    In the meantime, the above post rather reminds me of donning full armor to attack a hot fudge sundae.

  15. Should be a good report for those states generating power and fuels. They could use the report to impose an environmental tax for clean up, financial reserves for decommissioning of the power generating facilities, or for whatever reason on the power and fuels that gets out of their jurisdiction. With lower power cost within their state borders that would encourage more businesses to move in and hence employment while those green states pays a higher price for their fuel and power as they pay the environmental tax collected by the generating states. The more the green states works takes the moral high ground for being green the more they should pay the environmental taxes to the states taking the environmental damage. The dirty 20 or the dirty states should be compensated.

  16. Tez says:
    August 12, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    … Also there is a 25 000km2 raft of pumice floating in the sea off the NZ coast. Thought to be from an under water eruption but no details on toxic gases.”

    I suspect that it’s gonna be a lot like El Hierro. Dissolved in the seawater. El Hierro’s SO2 emission rate is puny compared to most active volcanoes, but one thing they did notice was that a lot of fish turned up dead. Since the only vents were underwater (so far), the subaerial emission of SO2 was small.

    I wonder how that affects ocean “de-alkalinization”? The midocean ridges cover a lot of the planet…

  17. I have a “modest suggestion”:

    Let the “Toxic 20″ cease selling ANY electricity to Washington D.C. Let the folks in the capital depend 100% on wind and solar. Let them serve as a ‘good example’ to the rest of us… Lead the way, D.C.!

  18. Any analysis of pollution levels, electricity generation or whatever needs to be done on a per capita basis to have any meaning whatsoever. And with electricity it makes far more sense to measure consumption per capita rather than generation, given the significant levels of electricity imported by some states. Even if you do it on a per capita basis, what it mostly tells you is which states do the bulk of manufacturing.

  19. geo: “Further, such a large decrease in supposedly deadly toxic chemicals …”

    Well, ‘supposedly deadly’ is the sole problem. Take Kentucky: Sulfuric and Hyrdochloric acid account for 95.77% of the yearly output. But the EPA itself states that the output of both, from electricity plants alone here, is completely meaningless and non-toxic. Strip just that out and Kentucky is as clean as New Jersey. (The jokes write themselves).

    But even that’s meaningless as we’re talking about air dispersal with a region of whatever square kilometers as defined by political boundaries. For example with mercury compounds, Texas tops at 12,505 while Kentucky comes in 9th at 2,287. But when looked at in terms of square miles that’s roughly 55 square kilometers per pound/year for Texas. While it’s 45 square kilometers for Kentucky. (2nd place is Pennsylvania at 3,938 pounds, or 30 square kilometers per pound.)

    The whole thing isn’t terribly useful except for the chart porn. Fun stuff to play with though. Simply chase back to the NRDC release and check the appendix for the methodology (Good on’ ya, guys) and a link to the EPA software to fiddle with.

  20. geo says:
    August 12, 2012 at 9:33 pm
    “I do not think skeptics do ourselves any favors by mocking good news of this sort. ”

    So let’s ponder why “geo” thinks this is good news.

    The NRDC report is called “Toxic power – How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air And States”.

    a) He likes tocix stuff.
    b) He loves attempts by green groups to shut down power generation.
    c) He’s a marketing guy and thinks that branding states as “The Toxic Twenty” is a great memorable slogan.

    Which is it, geo?

  21. On your comparison of the ‘Toxic 20′ and ‘Green 30′, how about including a factor the amount of electric power exported to and imported from out of state?

    One of the biggest hypocrisies is the way many ‘green states’ achieve their rating by exporting their pollution, sometimes literally, just across the border.

  22. Geo, we are NOT mocking news, good or otherwise – we are mocking pure propaganda, which is exactly what the NRDC report clearly is… Mocking propaganda is always a healthy thing. In fact, most clear-thinking folks would consider the recognition of propaganda to be a sign of actual intelligence…

  23. As Guest Poster David Middleton would know, geochemists in the 1970-80 era put a lot of effort into ‘mercury sniffers’, looking for mercury release from ground/soil to air that was above usual levels. Mercury is a common indicator element for some types of ore deposits. The point is, there is already natural mercury discharge into the atmosphere. I fail to see the logic of a separate count of mercury coming from the burning of fossil fuels.
    Further, there toxicity of mercury varies considerably with its chemical compound form. As a metal, we used to play with pounds of the the stuff in the chem labs. As methyl mercury, it harmed quite a few people by a factory at Minimata, Japan.
    …………………………
    While on the soapbox, what does all that pumice off New Zealand do to convetional throries of sunlight absorption by oceans? Bit opaque at times, eh? I remember years when there was pumice all over beaches in E Australia. More to be expected than rare.
    Sulphur dioxide. Yes, indeed, what does it do to the pH of deep oceans? Why are the deep oceans lass basic than surface waters and has it always been that way?
    And vegetation growth? If I was looking for a global agent that changes tree growth rings, I’d be looking at SO2 long before CO2. But that’s not politically correct, so there ……

  24. Edohiguma says:
    August 12, 2012 at 7:56 pm
    Though less sarcastic for a second… “emitting nearly 40.6 million pounds of harmful chemicals”. Classic. Oh my god! 40.6 million tons! About 20 million kilos! WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE! Classic approach. Throw around big, scary looking numbers.

    1 Tonf = 1.016 metric Tonnes, to all intents & purposes they’re the same! i.e 40 million tons = 40 million tonnes more or less! I think you’ve slipped your units about a bit!

    BTW the poison is always in the dosage!!!

  25. Do Greens and their hangers-on even know what electricity is? That’s a rhetorical question, btw. The answer, of course, is like the urban answer to the food supply, “from the grocery store”. “Electricity cvomes from the wall plug”..

  26. EPA contradicts their own statements. In ‘EPA Energy Star Fact Sheet’, the ‘national average mercury emissions’ by the electric sector is estimated 0.012 mg/kWh. (http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/promotions/change_light/downloads/Fact_Sheet_Mercury.pdf?1a93-2950)
    I have made a new calculation with the figures of 2010.
    – EPA (see NRCD’s report): Electric Sector Mercury Air Pollution: 68,199 lb, i.e. 30935 kg.
    – NEI (Nuclear Energy Institute): Total Electricity Generation 2010 in US: 4,125,059,900 MWh.
    So, the national average mercury emissions amount to 0.0075 mg/kWh for the year 2010. The figure of 0.012 is more than outdated.
    On this wrong base, EPA told us that CFLs are more environment friendly.
    – Mercury emission from electricity use of a CFL 13W: 0.013 kW x 8000 h x 0.012 mg/kWh = 1.2 mg. The mercury content in the lamp is 4 mg. The total mercury emission is 5.2 mg.
    – Mercury emission from electricity use of 8 incandescent lamps (a life time of 1000 hours is estimated) of 60W: 0.06kW x 8000 h x 0.012 mg/kWh = 5.76 mg. An incandescent lamp contains no mercury.
    I revised the EPA calculation using the recent figure:
    – Mercury emission from electricity use of a CFL 13W: 0.013 kW x 8000 h x 0.0075 mg/kWh = 0.78 mg. The mercury content in the lamp is 4 mg. The total mercury emission is 4.78 mg.
    – Mercury emission from electricity use of 8 incandescent lamps of 60W: 0.06kW x 8000 h x 0.0075 mg/kWh = 3.6 mg. An incandescent lamp contains no mercury.
    I will not enlarge here on other subjects here: CFLs emit dangerous UV radiation, in a recent test (Test-Aankoop Belgium, May 2012) it was observed that no lamp reached half the full intensity of light within 30 seconds, the lifetime of the lamps does not appear to correspond to the promised lifetime on the packaging, the collection of broken bulbs is not always as it should, etc. More information can be found on my website (see my name).
    Conclusion: CFLs should be banned immediately. These lamps are polluting more than incandescent lamps. The more the coal fired power plants will adopt the new rules, the more CFLs will become obsolete.

  27. The simplest calculations show that the power sector emissions of US states are not at all directly related to their total generation. Dividing Kentucky’s 40 million lbs figure by the 7,358 million MWh of electricity it generated in May 2012 gives a figure of around 5,500. Doing the same calculation for Texas gives a figure of 295. And for Washington, the figure is 9.

    On a scatter plot of pollution vs electricity generation, Kentucky stands out like a sore thumb,

  28. Took your data and calculated pollution per megawatt hour for those 20 states. Seems like Texas is almost the best of them, by that measure. Maybe we should tell the NRDC to focus on the 5 states with 10X as much pollution/mwh as Texas.

    P/M Rank State D Rank Pollution E rank MWh P/M
    1 Kentucky 1 40,564,585 20 5998 6763.018506
    2 Ohio 2 36,405,858 10 9450 3852.471746
    3 Delaware 20 2,942,946 47 781 3768.176697
    4 West Virginia 5 18,101,675 23 4884 3706.321663
    5 Indiana 4 26,234,197 11 8263 3174.899794
    6 Virginia 12 9,474,271 30 3722 2545.478506
    7 Michigan 7 15,543,430 15 7334 2119.365967
    8 Pennsylvania 3 31,482,857 3 15797 1992.964297
    9 North Carolina 8 14,634,490 13 7937 1843.831422
    10 Tennessee 11 9,640,464 17 6331 1522.739536
    11 Georgia 9 13,438,115 9 9745 1378.975372
    12 South Carolina 13 9,343,200 16 6904 1353.302433
    13 Maryland 19 3,126,022 32 2962 1055.375422
    14 Mississippi 17 3,989,857 29 3843 1038.214156
    15 Florida 6 16,662,542 2 16,955 982.7509289
    16 Missouri 15 5,114,713 19 6267 816.134195
    17 Wisconsin 18 3,574,179 25 4448 803.5474371
    18 Alabama 14 8,291,061 4 10339 801.9209788
    19 Texas 10 10,454,140 1 32572 320.9548078
    20 Illinois 16 4,665,396 5 14685 317.6980592

  29. I wonder if visitors from other states are considered. All the snowbirds that come to Florida during the winter would skew the results. On the other hand, we all down here love the money you bring with you. I’m going with money, so com’on down!

  30. Graeme W says:
    August 12, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    The first thing that crossed my mind was the fact that the “Toxic Twenty” looked a lot like a list of the nation’s top electricity generating States…

    The first thing I did after reading this was to look at the names of the states. There’s a small correlation, but not a lot. Both have Pennsylvania at number three, but otherwise it’s all over the place.

    […]

    The second thing I did after looking at the “Toxic Twenty” list was to look up the EIA State ranking of electricity generation.
    Top Ten April 2012 MWh (“Toxic Twenty” bolded):

    Texas 32,572
    Florida 16,955
    Pennsylvania 15,797

    California 14,773
    Illinois 14,685
    Washington 10,693
    Alabama 10,339
    New York 9,953
    Georgia 9,745
    Ohio 9,450

    Seven of the top ten electricity generators are in the “Toxic Twenty.” If you back out hydroelectric power, Washington and New York drop out of the top ten.

    Fourteen of the top twenty generators are in the “Toxic Twenty.”

    Conversely, Delaware is the only “Toxic Twenty” State in the ten least productive States. Delaware and Maryland are the only two “Toxic Twenty” States among the twenty lease productive States.

    Joanna says:
    August 12, 2012 at 11:08 pm
    Try cross-plotting the data in the histograms…could be more informative.

    Yes. It would be more informative. It would also have obviated Graeme W’s comment.

  31. Bolding fixed…

    Graeme W says:
    August 12, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    The first thing that crossed my mind was the fact that the “Toxic Twenty” looked a lot like a list of the nation’s top electricity generating States…

    The first thing I did after reading this was to look at the names of the states. There’s a small correlation, but not a lot. Both have Pennsylvania at number three, but otherwise it’s all over the place.

    […]

    The second thing I did after looking at the “Toxic Twenty” list was to look up the EIA State ranking of electricity generation.
    Top Ten April 2012 MWh (“Toxic Twenty” bolded):

    Texas 32,572
    Florida 16,955
    Pennsylvania 15,797

    California 14,773
    Illinois 14,685
    Washington 10,693
    Alabama 10,339
    New York 9,953
    Georgia 9,745
    Ohio 9,450

    Seven of the top ten electricity generators are in the “Toxic Twenty.” If you back out hydroelectric power, Washington and New York drop out of the top ten.

    Fourteen of the top twenty generators are in the “Toxic Twenty.”

    Conversely, Delaware is the only “Toxic Twenty” State in the ten least productive States. Delaware and Maryland are the only two “Toxic Twenty” States among the twenty lease productive States.

    Joanna says:
    August 12, 2012 at 11:08 pm
    Try cross-plotting the data in the histograms…could be more informative.

    Yes. It would be more informative. It would also have obviated Graeme W’s comment.

  32. Coal impurities vary substantially by region/mine.
    Installed pollution controls are also all over the lot,
    Some our coal fired generating assets are also more then 80 years old.

    If I look at coal consumption by state I don’t see any correlation between quantity of coal burned and rankings in NRDC’s list. I.E Texas burns 100 Million tons of coal per year and Kentucky only burns 40 million tons.

    http://www.eia.gov/coal/annual/pdf/table26.pdf

  33. The most “blue” most “liberal” most “environmental” precincts around are also far and away the most vulnerable to power disruption. A condition that was normal in our vacation cabin, annoying on the ranch, and manageable in our suburban home — no electricity — can be fatal in the high rise canyons where many of those who don’t like the way power is generated reside. I don’t care how “green” you think you are because you can take mass transit to work….if the sparks stop flyin the cities start diein. A lot of that “nasty, dirty” power is being moved from the generators to the consumers…which is where the pollution should be assigned.

  34. Another of those Texas bumper stickers was “Will the last one to leave Michigan please turn off the lights”
    It was awful here in the oil patch until those people who migrated here for work became Texans and raised Texas families.
    Our oil patch here in Houston is full of people who don’t ever go back where they came from, but stay in Texas instead.

  35. Offhand, I’d say those 20 states (40% of 50) generating 62% of the electricity contain far less than 62% of the population.

    It’s easy to reduce your emissions if you just move your power stations and factories out of state.

  36. Billions required to split split hairs.

    Instead of CO2 levels, EPA regulations should be reduced to 1990 levels.

  37. Just a couple a clarifications:
    Many power stations in the west burn low sulfur coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin or local lignite (like in Texas), also low sulfur. That reduces the amounts of acids released in comparison to higher sulfur coals in the east.

    Many of the differences in emissions are being averaged out as older coal stations are being shutdown and replaced with natural gas. 2011 had a very large switch over from coal to gas, so all of the “toxic” emissions will be lower in the US in the next report.

    And since people are aquainted with statistic here, think about it: You can never win. There will always be a “toxic twenty” to bash industry over the head no matter how much it is reduced by controls. The NRDC will not even be satisfied with zero, they always need a mission to exist.

  38. I am quite disapointed in my home state we made the green thirty I would rather be in the toxic 20 and have lots of electricity to spare.

  39. Omigosh, they are using TRI reports. A majority of the pollutants are based on engineering factors and other swags. I doubt many reports are based on actual “in-stack” measurements for all the listed pollutants. If you have a factor from some source, you plug it in. Some may come from air emissions monitoring data, but these are not done in that depth very often. The TRI reports have always been GIGO and shouldn’t be used for anything.

  40. David, I accept that the top electricity produces are also high in producing pollution, but what I was commenting on was the attempted correlation. If you don’t look at just the lists, but where states appear on the lists, the lists do not strongly correlate. Only Pennsylvania matches. Texas, the top electricity producing state, is way down on the list of pollution producers. In other words, it produces it’s electricity in a low pollution-efficient way. Kentucky, on the other hand, is in the reverse position.

    Duncan’s list, showing pollution per mega-Watt, is a much, much better approach to take. And, as expected from the original data, Kentucky tops the list.with a rate that is roughly double the next state on the list.

    So I stick by my statement – the lists do not share a strong correlation. If they did, Texas should have been one of the top states for pollution, not way down at tenth place. Out of the top eight electricity producing states, only one is in the top eight pollution producers (not a strong correlation there). It’s only when you include the ninth, tenth and eleventh from both lists do you increase the correlation from one out of eight to four out of eleven – still not a great correlation.

    The information is useful to compare, because you’re right that electricity production does mean producing pollution, but the information you’ve provided shows that most of the top electricity generating states produce their electricity in an efficient manner, and that most of the pollution being produced is NOT by those top electricity generating states (apart from Pennsylvania).

  41. Oops… an error in my previous statement. It should be two out of the eight and five out of the eleven. Regardless, less than half of the top eight/eleven polluting states are on the top eight/eleven electricity generating states.

    Of course, the more states you look at the, the more that will appear on both lists (until you eventually get all states on both lists), but the top ten is 20% of the states, and the correlation in the top ten is not very high.

  42. “Michael Kelley says:

    August 13, 2012 at 10:59 am ”

    The other secret is that the Clean Air Act was completely unncessary…because pollution levels were coming down on their own due to local ordinances and other forms of local regulation. There was never a reason to centralize the pollution controls because in the end people dis-like pollution and it effects locals more then anyone else.

    But you are correct, pollution levels have been decreasing but they have been doing so for the last 100 years.

  43. To all who are looking at the total numbers of production versus MW/hr produced (or similar metric) this gets you into trouble often times. The point made at the top of the article is that the “toxic 20″ is rather abritrary and that its not really relevant. I think the point remains if you think about it. It all depends on how the “toxic 20″ was exactly computed. Is nuclear power clean? (IE what are the emissions from this?) Is hydro-electric clean? Are transport costs included for fuel and for the maintanenace of “renewable resources?” Think fuel costs as well. How is this computed? I think the answer is that its not, and that they rather just grade based on what they think of as bad forms of power generation, mainly coal if I had to guess.

    And so on. Look at Kentucky in detail in map form here: http://www.eia.gov/state/state-energy-profiles.cfm?sid=KY

    •Ninety-three percent of Kentucky’s net electricity generation in 2011 was generated from coal.

    That is directly from the link. Lets look at the other toxic 20 in more detail … http://www.eia.gov/state/seds/seds-states.cfm?q_state_a=TX&q_state=Texas

    For instance Texas produces the most power of the states, but is only number 9 on the list of pollution. Why is this? If you look at Texas production of electricity by source:

    Coal = 36.5%
    NG = 45.4%
    renewables = 6.7%
    Nuclear = 10%

    As a caveat, the way this is figured out might be what is consumed as well by a percentage, but it does give an idea (the source is the same website in this case) about how things are computed for the toxic 20. Coal is bad, and NG is lesser bad, but renewables are good. When you are looking at this in particular, this is what you will find.

    Now that we know this, look at Ohio. •Coal fueled 78 percent of Ohio’s net electricity generation in 2011, nuclear energy contributed 11 percent, and natural gas added another 8.9 percent

    Pennsylvania: 44% coal, nuclear 33%, but PN is also a big producer of electricity, so this makes sense.

    Indiana: Coal 83 percent of Indiana’s net electricity generation in 2011.

    West Virginia: 96% coal

    Florida: 66% NG, 23% coal, but Florida also produces the second most power of any state. Texas is #1.

    And you find more as you look at each Toxic 20 state. I would look for what makes states NOT TOXIC next, but heck that is for some other time by someone else. But a cursory look at California tells us that I was correct in my assumptions:

    Over half of Cali’s power comes from NG. Almost no coal, and a high amount of nuke (17%) and other renewables. This is why the state is “green” so to speak. Probably also why electricity costs so much there, but that is neither here nor there.

  44. benfrommo, that makes a lot of sense. The linked report in turn links to a NRDC report which claims to use the publicly available figures given to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI).

    My next question was then what constituted a toxic chemical, because I wondered if they included CO2 in that list. However, while I’m not absolutely sure, I couldn’t find it when I did a search on the TRI so I presume not.

    So all this report is doing is confirming that coal powered electric generation produces significantly more pollution than the alternatives such as natural gas or nuclear. I’m a little surprised at how much more, but then I’ve never looked into the details that closely, so I suspect it’s not a surprise for anyone working in the industry.

  45. @benfrommo
    Thanks, if you look at the top of the post I asked this question, but you are the only one to answer it.

  46. NP on the reports, as for what I was really trying to show was how generalized and how third grade level this analysis was, and in turn I guess they based their findings on what the EPA does…which is the same level. Some have likened it to propaganda which I would tend to agree with.

    Basically, all they do is say “pollution of this type is THIS bad” and then monkey with weights on different “exhaust” types to give the results they desire. You could create a chart of “20 worst states” based on any weight you wanted to, and they indeed do based on what I thought they would…..They hate coal most, and NG they dislike, but say its “tolerable” because of knee jerk reactions. No actual science used, so in effect yes the toxic 20 is just some “who’s who list of who produces the most coal fired electricity”. And the more you use nuke or hydro or renewables, the better, but the rest has to be NG because very few new nukes are going up and electricity usage will only increase unless our economy indeed goes down the toilet because in the end the two variables economic expansion and energy usage have always been directly related to one another.

  47. Graeme W says:
    August 13, 2012 at 2:32 pm
    David, I accept that the top electricity produces are also high in producing pollution, but what I was commenting on was the attempted correlation…

    […]

    Graeme, I think you may be reading something into my post that isn’t there. Or at least wasn’t intended to be there. Perhaps the problem is in the way I worded this…

    The first thing that crossed my mind was the fact that the “Toxic Twenty” looked a lot like a list of the nation’s top electricity generating States…

    Upon reading that list, the first thing that crossed my mind was that most of the “Toxic Twenty” States were also among the nation’s top electricity generating States. I was not literally correlating the State positions on the two lists.

    I should have illustrated this relationship with a Venn diagram.

    Graeme W says:
    August 13, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    […]
    My next question was then what constituted a toxic chemical, because I wondered if they included CO2 in that list. However, while I’m not absolutely sure, I couldn’t find it when I did a search on the TRI so I presume not.
    […]

    CO2 is not part of the TRI. Despite the endangerment finding, CO2 is still not listed as a pollutant on their Air Trends page.

  48. Thanks, David. If you didn’t intend to imply there was a correlation, then, as you’ve said, it was just a misunderstanding on my behalf. Please accept my apology :)was very interesting and

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