If the Top 50 polluting power plantsof which three are in North Carolinawere an independent nation, they would be the seventh-largest emitter of carbon dioxide pollution in the world, behind Germany and ahead of South Korea.

These dirty plants produce amounts of carbon dioxide equal to the emissions of half of all passenger vehicles126 millionin the United States.

These statistics are included in a report released by Environment America that shows the 50 dirtiest power plants in the U.S. produce more than 2 percent of the world’s energy-related pollution. All 50 of these plants burn coal.

Carbon dioxide emissions are a major contributor to greenhouse gases and global warming. However, the federal government does not limit the amount of CO2 power plants generateyet. Later this month, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue new rules that would regulate CO2 emissions for new coal-fired and natural gas plants, but not the 2,235 existing ones. Those regulations, still to be determined, could go into effect in June 2015.

30 years Number of years coal plants are designed to operate

50% Percentage of coal plants in the U.S. that are 40–60 years old

39 years old Age of Belews Creek, N.C., plant

47 years old Age of Roxboro, N.C., plant

48 years old Age of Marshall, N.C., plant

589 Number of coal plants in the U.S.

Sources: Energy Information Administration, 2011; Environment America, Duke and Progress Energy