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Beyond Energy Companies: Who are the Big Emitters?

Not surprisingly, the Greenhouse 100 index of the nation’s top greenhouse gas emitters – released yesterday by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst – is dominated by utilities and oil and gas companies. So who are the outliers?

The highest-emitting company not hailing from the energy sector, per se, is the US government at fourth place. The biggest chunk of its emissions, though, did come from power generation – with all 14 of its top emitting facilities being fossil fuel plants run by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The next company down is Warren Buffet’s diversified Berkshire Hathaway, whose sectors include chemicals and glass production – though again, the lion’s share of the emissions came from its 22 power plants.

In fact, the only companies on the list that aren’t involved in the energy sector at all are United States Steel (22nd), ArcelorMittal USA (26th), Ascend Performance Materials (53rd), Archer Daniels Midland (24th), Republic Services (59th), CF Industries Holdings (63rd), AK Steel (92nd), Carmeuse Lime (96th) and Holcim (97th).

It will be interesting to see if U. Mass can come up with a way to level the playing field, providing a measure that frames companies’ emissions against their economic contributions. It’s not exactly a revelation that most of the country’s big emitters are in the fossil fuel industry, and it’s a bit unfair to call out a company as a “big emitter” if its emission levels are due more to the size of its power output than to a low carbon efficiency. On the other hand, the ranking is a reminder that other sectors’ climate strategies will need to go well beyond their gates – to their energy purchasing choices, or even to lobbying on climate policy – to make the biggest possible dent in carbon emissions.

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

Pictured: Paradise Fossil Plant, the US government’s biggest single GHG emitter. Source: TVA.

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