Anyone who’s visited the Hoover Dam knows it helps keep the lights on in Las Vegas, as well as other cities throughout Nevada, California, and Arizona. But when you flip a light switch, do you know what’s powering the bulb? If the answer is coal, that could change over the next few years.
President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency recently unveiled the Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce CO2 emissions from U.S. coal-burning power plants — the country’s biggest source of those emissions — by 32 percent by 2030. Carbon pollution is already on the decline, but the EPA wants to speed up the process.
States have until 2018 to propose strategies on how to accomplish this and until 2022 to put them in motion. But not all states are on equal footing when it comes to the changes that need to be made to reduce the emissions. Compare Kentucky and its neighbor Tennessee. While Kentucky gets 92 percent of its energy from coal (petroleum, natural gas, and hydro making up the rest), Tennessee has a more diverse power portfolio: Coal provides 46 percent, and hydro, natural gas, biomass, and nuclear are the other power sources.
The EPA created a series of interactive maps that show different facets of the Clean Power Plan. One gives the breakdowns above, providing the mix of the types of power each state uses. They also show exactly where the country’s wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal plants are located. Another zoomable map uses differently sized dots to pinpoint coal plants and indicate how much carbon dioxide they emit.
There is some debate about whether cutting emissions will raise or lower electricity bills, but the White House has mapped out other ways each state will be affected. An EPA map links to these PDFs from the White House, which explain how warming affects fisheries in Oregon, Michigan’s Great Lakes, tribes in Wyoming, and so on, for each state.
President Obama calls the plan “the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change.”