Innovation and Inspiration

U.S. EPA Gets Tech-Savvy

The U.S. EPA has employed user-friendly tools to help the public access environmental data. For example, EPA released their 2011 federal greenhouse gas emission data today. This data gives the public access to the greenhouse gas footprint of 1,594 power plants, 1,880 petroleum and natural gas systems, 1,593 waste-related companies, 145 refineries, 458 chemical companies, and other industries. Why these industries? Well, they emit the most greenhouse gases out of all other industries in the U.S., and they are the upstream sources that directly emit greenhouse gases from fuel consumption.

Click on the, and the public can create very telling maps. Use the drop down to select your state or the state in which you are interested. EPA then provides icons in the top right of a map, a list, a bar graph, and a pie chart that depict the data by source type and ranks the footprints. Once you select the state, EPA also has another drop down that allows you to select by county.

I found some areas difficult about EPA’s tools. Firstly, it is not clear how to unfilter a state. I had to refresh the entire tool. Second, there is no export capability for the bar or pie charts. If you hit the “Download” button, it refers the user to a page where he/she can download all the GHG data in excel and recreate charts manually. Allowing export capability will allow EPA’s professional looking charts and graphs to be readily accessible and usable.