Jun 17, 2014

Maps show where U.S. gets various types of energy. Coal still on top

The Rural BlogWith all the discussions about the Obama administration's plan to cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030, talk of a "war on coal" and heated debates between those who support and oppose the plan, it might be a good time to look at exactly where America gets its energy. The Washington Post provides 11 maps that show how different sources—thermal, nuclear, hydroelectric, wind and solar power—are used in the U.S., along with maps of transmission lines, the shifting of coal production from Appalachia to the West and locations of oil wells, pipelines and shale oil and gas wells. 

Coal remains the top source of energy, providing 37 percent of the nation's electricity, Brad Plumer writes for the Post. But coal has fallen out of favor in recent years, with electric utilities retiring 145 generators, with an average age of 55 years old, between 2010 to 2012. (Map: U.S. coal plants)

Natural gas is on the rise, providing 30 percent of electricity, Plumer writes. "Natural gas plants tend to be smaller, easier to build and emit fewer conventional pollutants than coal plants—so they're more widespread. In 2012, there were 1,714 natural gas plants providing about 30 percent of the nation's power." (U.S. gas power plants)
"Nuclear reactors have begun closing in recent years, but there are still 62 nuclear power plants in operation containing 100 reactors," Plumer writes. "Those reactors provide 19 percent of the nation's electricity—without emitting any heat-trapping greenhouse gases." (U.S. nuclear plants)
In 2012, 7 percent of U.S. electricity came from 1,426 hydroelectric plants, Plumer writes. Wind power has increased from 1 percent of the total in 2008 to 4.1 percent in 2013. Solar power accounted for 0.11 percent of electricity in 2012. Meanwhile, the U.S. produces about 60 percent of the oil it needs, but getting it where it needs to go is a different matter. Several pipeline projects are hold amid protests from residents who don't want the oil running through their neighborhoods.

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