I came across this fascinating resource in an article in my daily email from the Mother Earth News:
The US Environmental Protection Agency has a neat little web thingy called the Power Profiler, which will show you what sources of electric power generation your local utility uses and what kinds of air pollution emissions that causes, and how all of that compares with national averages (currently using 2005 data).
My region is rather large — most of the Pacific Northwest and Intermountain West — but you can select different utility providers if your zip code has more than one, to make some comparisons, and some regions are smaller and thus more local in nature.
My region and utility use almost 50% hydroelectric, which is far above the average, and about 30% coal, close to average. Almost no nuclear or oil power. All the emissions are below average.
I thought it would be interesting to look at other places I have lived. California has more variety both green and not so, since there are utilities there (such as the Sacramento Metropolitan Utility District) that support renewable resources, and two nuclear power plants. New York has quite a bit of hydro and nuclear power, and all of these regions also rely on oil and gas to some degree. California was the leader in non-hydro renewables (e.g. wind, solar, and biomass).
It’s heartening to see that there is such variety, in terms of the security of the power generation system and growing reliance on renewables; it’s discouraging to see such dependence on petroleum and coal given their polluting and nonrenewable natures. In fact, even in regions where I least expected it — Seattle, where hydro is plentiful, and Dallas, where oil is king — coal still provided one-third or more of power generation.
All the more reason to keep to my plan for solar panels and passive heating and cooling in any future homes!