There’s a decommissioned nuclear power plant with 1,100 tons of nuclear waste sitting on the shores of Lake Michigan, the largest supply of drinking water in North America.
These are the sorts of factoids awaiting after you get sucked into the inevitable Google wormhole after checking out the Washington Post’s latest data viz: a categorized map of every power plant in the United States.
It charts gas, coal, nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, solar, and oil in a cross-country confetti pop of color. (You can scroll down the page to see each type of power plant mapped on its own, too.) Each plant type gets its own color. And the larger the circle, the more megawatts it produces annually.
The map’s predominant orange glow comes from natural gas, with 1,740 plants producing almost a third of our energy. While coal, which actually produces 34% of our energy with 511 carbon-coughing plants, seems to fill the map with a gray haze. To be honest, this difference feels like a dangerous, subconscious editorialization through the use color. Coal looks so evil in black (and okay, it is pretty evil!), while gas looks so optimistic in orange. It’s almost enough to make you forget about fracking, if only for a moment.
Other notable trends: The green line that cuts through the midwest is all wind energy, while that river of blue that’s especially prevalent on the west coast represents hydroelectric power. (Those massive blue orbs are plants in the Columbia River Basin, where 44% of our hydroelectric power is produced. Who knew! Google, actually.) Purple—nuclear power—is basically nonexistent in the left half of our nation, though its 99 plants produce 20% of our nation’s power. And the mustard yellow dots of solar that you can barely spot along the California coast and the East–while tough to decipher–actually produce just as much energy as all the red dots, which are oil. They each account for 1% of the nation’s energy, which is probably less a victory for solar’s efficiency than it is a defeat from oil’s rising barrel prices. But either way, we’ll take it.