American Electric Power, Duke Energy and Southern Company are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases in the US, according to the Greenhouse 100 index, a new ranking of US polluters developed by researchers at the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Each of the top three companies emits more than 100 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. Together, these three electrical power companies are responsible for more than five percent of greenhouse gas emissions from all sources combined in the US—as much as the average annual emissions of 73 million automobiles, PERI says.
The US government ranked fourth in the Greenhouse 100 index for emitting more than 77 million metric tons CO2 equivalent emissions in 2011. Berkshire Hathaway, Ameren Corp., Luminant Generation Co., FirstEnergy Generation Corp., AES Corp. and Xcel Energy round out the top 10 emitters on the index.
PERI’s Greenhouse 100 Index ranks US industrial polluters on the basis of their emissions and uses data from the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, which reports emissions from large facilities for the year 2011. The Greenhouse Index is co-sponsored by the New Economics Institute.
PERI researchers matched individual facilities to their owners to produce the Greenhouse 100 rankings. Researchers also calculated the percentages of low-income and minority populations living within 10 miles of each facility in an effort to illustrate the extent to which the toxic co-pollutants that are produced along with greenhouse gases disproportionately impact these groups.
Last month, the organization also released its rankings of the top 100 water polluters in the US. Ohio Valley Electric, Ferro, American Electric Power, the US Department of Defense and Southern were the top five toxic water polluters, according to the index, which is based on 2009 data.