WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 14 — US President George W. Bush Thursday proposed a global warming policy that is linked to a program to reduce power plant emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury by 70% using a market-based approach.
Last March Bush had rejected any US acceptance of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions, saying it would harm the US economy.
The White House said the climate change policy would commit the US to “an aggressive” strategy to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) “intensity” by 18% over the next 10 years. It defined GHG intensity as the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions to economic output.
The administration’s goal is to lower the US rate of emissions from an estimated 183 metric tons/$1 million of GDP in 2002 to 151 metric tons/$1 million in 2012. It said, “By significantly slowing the growth of greenhouse gases, this policy will put America on a path toward stabilizing GHG concentration in the atmosphere in the long run, while sustaining the economic growth needed to finance our investments in a new, cleaner energy structure.
“America is already improving its GHG intensity; new policies and programs will accelerate that progress, avoiding more than 500 million metric tons of GHG emissions over the next 10 years — the equivalent of taking nearly one out of every three cars off the road. This goal is comparable to the average progress that nations participating in the Kyoto Protocol are required to achieve.”
The administration said the US will improve its GHG registry to enhance measurement accuracy, reliability, and verifiability, taking into account emerging domestic and international approaches. “These improvements will give businesses incentives to invest in new, cleaner technology and voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
The Department of Energy would recommend reforms to ensure that businesses that register voluntary reductions are not penalized under a future climate policy, and give credit to companies that can show actual emissions reductions.
The White House said, “If, in 2012, we find that we are not on track toward meeting our goal, and sound science justifies further policy action, the US will respond with additional measures that may include a broad, market-based program as well as additional incentives and voluntary measures designed to accelerate technology development and deployment.”
It noted that the administration’s fiscal 2003 budget proposes $4.5 billion for global climate change-related activities, a $700 million increase. That includes the first year of funding for a 5-year, $4.6 billion commitment to tax credits for renewable energy sources.
The White House said, “Rather than making drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that would put millions of Americans out of work and undermine our ability to make long-term investments in clean energy — as the Kyoto Protocol would have required — the president’s growth-based approach will accelerate the development of new technologies and encourage partnerships on climate change issues with the developing world.”
The Sierra Club called the administration’s global warming proposal “a Valentine’s Day gift to corporate polluters.”
It said under the plan, US emissions would be 36% higher than levels proposed for 2010 in the Kyoto pact and 50% above the targets for 2020. “Instead of Kyoto’s absolute emission limits, the Bush administration plan would peg emissions to a certain percentage of GDP. This turns US global warming protections into a fair weather friend, reducing emissions slightly but only while GDP is robust. If the economy falters, global warming protections would be dumped. Additionally, the Bush administration’s plan is expected to rely on polluters voluntarily cutting their emissions, but when it comes to global warming pollution, voluntary measures don’t work.”
The American Petroleum Institute said, “President Bush’s climate change initiative appropriately emphasizes the development of new technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without damaging the economy. This voluntary program will enhance the already aggressive efforts by industry in developing the necessary technologies and programs to reduce these emissions while important scientific research continues.”
API said that for 2 years, the oil industry has been compiling information on estimating greenhouse emissions. “We have found that consistent estimation of greenhouse gas emissions is much more difficult than believed. Regardless of its elements, any workable plan to reduce greenhouse emissions must include the ability to accurately calculate them.”
The power plant emissions policy, dubbed the “Clear Skies Initiative,” would cut sulfur dioxide emissions 73% from current emissions of 11 million tons to a cap of 4.5 million tons in 2010, and 3 million tons in 2018.
It would reduce nitrogen oxides emissions 67% from current emissions of 5 million tons to a cap of 2.1 million tons in 2008, and to 1.7 million tons in 2018.
And for the first time, the US would cut mercury emissions. They would be lowered from the current 48 tons by 69% to a cap of 26 tons in 2010, and 15 tons in 2018.
The administration said its plan uses a proven, market-based cap-and-trade approach that will save up to $1 billion/year in compliance costs that would be passed along to American consumers.
It said the plan “improves air quality and protects the reliability and affordability of electricity” while encouraging use of new and cleaner pollution control technologies.
The Clean Air Trust called the plan a “cynical ploy to distract public attention away from rollbacks of existing Clean Air Act (CAA) requirements.”
Frank O’Donnell, executive director of the trust, said, the administration plan would permit more air pollution in the future than strict enforcement of the current CAA. He said it could delay cleanup for more than a decade and eliminate current CAA safeguards aimed to protect air quality in local communities and reduce the interstate transport of pollution.
O’Donnell said future rule changes would weaken clean air controls for refineries, chemical plants, and other factories not covered by the proposal. “Through those rule changes, the administration would sanction real increases in pollution from electric power plants and other sources of pollution,” he said.
Separately, the US Energy Information Administration said 222 US companies and other organizations have reported they undertook 1,882 projects to reduce or sequester GHGs during 2000.
Reported emission reductions included 187 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in direct emission reductions, 61 million in indirect emission reductions, 9 million from carbon sequestration, and 12 million from unspecified programs. Direct reductions are those from sources owned or leased by the reporting entity, while indirect reductions result from the entity’s activities.
EIA said the electric power sector, with 103 companies reporting, continues to provide the largest number of participants to the program. Reporters included nearly all of the largest electricity generating utilities. The companies reported projects such as improved plant efficiencies, cogeneration, use of non-fossil fuels such as nuclear and renewable fuels, and demand-side management programs that reduce power use by their customers. Other projects included activities such as methane recovery projects at landfills, urban forestry, and worldwide tree planting projects.
The 119 participants from outside the electric power sector were more than nine times the number reporting in the first year of the program. These companies now comprise more than half of the reporters to the program and include firms engaged in automobile manufacturing, petroleum production and refining, coal mining, food processing, and the chemical industry.