Category Archives: Kyoto Protocol

United States Carbon: A Republican Case for Climate Action

EACH of us took turns over the past 43 years running the Environmental Protection Agency. We served Republican presidents, but we have a message that transcends political affiliation: the United States must move now on substantive steps to curb climate change, at home and internationally.

There is no longer any credible scientific debate about the basic facts: our world continues to warm, with the last decade the hottest in modern records, and the deep ocean warming faster than the earth’s atmosphere. Sea level is rising. Arctic Sea ice is melting years faster than projected.

The costs of inaction are undeniable. The lines of scientific evidence grow only stronger and more numerous. And the window of time remaining to act is growing smaller: delay could mean that warming becomes “locked in.”

A market-based approach, like a carbon tax, would be the best path to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, but that is unachievable in the current political gridlock in Washington. Dealing with this political reality, President Obama’s June climate action plan lays out achievable actions that would deliver real progress. He will use his executive powers to require reductions in the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the nation’s power plants and spur increased investment in clean energy technology, which is inarguably the path we must follow to ensure a strong economy along with a livable climate.

The president also plans to use his regulatory power to limit the powerful warming chemicals known as hydrofluorocarbons and encourage the United States to join with other nations to amend the Montreal Protocol to phase out these chemicals. The landmark international treaty, which took effect in 1989, already has been hugely successful in solving the ozone problem.

Rather than argue against his proposals, our leaders in Congress should endorse them and start the overdue debate about what bigger steps are needed and how to achieve them — domestically and internationally.

As administrators of the E.P.A under Presidents Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and George W. Bush, we held fast to common-sense conservative principles — protecting the health of the American people, working with the best technology available and trusting in the innovation of American business and in the market to find the best solutions for the least cost.

That approach helped us tackle major environmental challenges to our nation and the world: the pollution of our rivers, dramatized when the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire in 1969; the hole in the ozone layer; and the devastation wrought by acid rain.

The solutions we supported worked, although more must be done. Our rivers no longer burn, and their health continues to improve. The United States led the world when nations came together to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals. Acid rain diminishes each year, thanks to a pioneering, market-based emissions-trading system adopted under the first President Bush in 1990. And despite critics’ warnings, our economy has continued to grow.

Climate change puts all our progress and our successes at risk. If we could articulate one framework for successful governance, perhaps it should be this: When confronted by a problem, deal with it. Look at the facts, cut through the extraneous, devise a workable solution and get it done.

We can have both a strong economy and a livable climate. All parties know that we need both. The rest of the discussion is either detail, which we can resolve, or purposeful delay, which we should not tolerate.

Mr. Obama’s plan is just a start. More will be required. But we must continue efforts to reduce the climate-altering pollutants that threaten our planet. The only uncertainty about our warming world is how bad the changes will get, and how soon. What is most clear is that there is no time to waste.

To learn more about United States Carbon and our energy reduction technology that will help you become greener, cleaner, and more socially responsible please contact us at (855) 393-7555 or visit our website: www.unitedstatescarbon.com

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United States Carbon: No More Free-Pass for Carbon Pollution

For more than 40 years, the Clean Air Act has proved itself an effective, efficient and flexible tool that has safeguarded public health while fostering economic growth and innovation.

My colleagues and I at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a new analysis today that finds curbing carbon pollution from power plants using the Clean Air Act would have similarly positive results.

In the analysis — “Less Carbon, More Jobs, Lower Bills” — we found that NRDC’s proposal to cut carbon pollution would create new jobs nationally and lower the average American’s monthly electric bill. This analysis is based on a proposal detailed in our December 2012 report “Closing the Power Plant Carbon Pollution Loophole: Smart Ways the Clean Air Act Can Clean Up America’s Biggest Climate Polluters.”

Specifically, we found that our proposed carbon standards would, in 2020, increase national employment by a net total of 210,000 jobs, lower average residential electricity bills by $0.90 per month and have essentially no overall impact on the nation’s GDP.

Total net jobs added by state (select U.S. states) in 2020 from carbon standard
Total net jobs added by state (select U.S. states) in 2020 from carbon standard.
Credit: NRDC.

The analysis

In December 2012, NRDC shared its proposalfor how the EPA could set carbon standards for power plants that would achieve big reductions at far lower cost than conventional wisdom would have suggested. At the same time, these actions would create vast benefits for the American people, including a surge of investment in energy efficiency. The plan would give EPA the flexibility it has under the Clean Air Act to set carbon reduction goals based in part on states’ current electric generation mixes. It would also allow power companies to draw from a wide range of options to meet emissions reduction targets.

With that kind of practical, flexible approach, we showed that EPA could reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020 (relative to the peak levels in 2005), while at the same time lowering electricity prices. The price tag? About $4 billion in 2020. But the benefits — in saved lives, reduced illnesses and avoided environmental damage — would be worth $25 billion to $60 billion, or six to 15 times greater than those costs.

That report outlined the big picture. Today, we are releasing a companion analysis that digs into the details and examines how our proposal would affect jobs, GDP and electricity bills for average Americans. This analysis also examines how our proposal would look in several states around the country.

Nationally, we see a total net gain of 210,000 jobs in 2020. Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Virginia jobs would increase and electric bills would decrease. Colorado, Iowa and Minnesota would see job gains, and Maine residents would save on their electric bills.

Energy efficiency upgrades are the primary driver of job gains in the analysis, responsible for 236,000 additional direct jobs in 2020. Shifts in other sectors (including not just power plants, but also industries that supply inputs to the production of these plants) would reduce the net increase to 210,000; some job gains are also offset because households would be spending money on energy efficiency measures instead of other economy-wide goods and services.

Energy bill savings occur even though the efficiency programs add costs to electricity bills. This is because these charges are still lower than the cost of electricity required without such efficiency changes. While electricity rates (cents per kilowatt-hour) could go up modestly in some cases, electricity bills (rate multiplied by usage) go down, on average, because energy efficiency improvements reduce overall electricity consumption.

Carbon Standard Bills changes
Changes in net job years and utility bills in the United States and in selected states from carbon standard in 2020 (policy case relative to business-as-usual).
Credit: NRDC.

Conservative estimates

Our estimates are conservative.

In the report, changes in utility bills capture savings from energy efficiency only for the year 2020, yet energy efficiency upgrades installed up to that point will continue to have benefits for consumers for many years beyond. The bill savings we estimated reflect up-front charges on electricity bills for energy-efficiency programs and investments in cleaner generation, all of which occur in 2020, minus savings gained from avoiding some energy generation in 2020 alone).

Additionally, the analysis did not include two positive impacts our proposal would have on GDP; due to modeling limitations, we had to leave these effects out. First, we did not calculate productivity improvements to the economy that would result from the $25 billion to $60 billion in health and environmental benefits. These improvements could be significant: a series of studies led by Dale Jorgenson at Harvard University concluded that the healthier workforce resulting from the Clean Air Act increased GDP by as much as 1.5 percent by 2010. Similar to other environmental damages , climate change disrupts worker productivity because of work days lost to extreme weather (e.g. from damages to homes, businesses, and transportation and other infrastructure) and climate-related illnesses (e.g. exacerbated respiratory illnesses such as asthma and bronchitis, and emergency room visits during heat-waves for various health impacts). Extreme heat also directly lowers the productivity of outdoor workers.

Second, our proposed carbon standard reduces wholesale electricity prices in the regions we studied in the eastern part of the country due to reduced electricity demand and the form of the output-based standard (the regulatory limit on power-plant outputs). However, we did not estimate the positive effect this price drop would have on businesses and economy-wide production.

Details aside, though, the big picture is clear. Climate change is fueling extreme weather, heat, drought, forest fires, asthma and many other effects that are harming our children’s health and their future. Yet, one of the largest sources of the dangerous heat-trapping gases driving climate change, our nation’s power plants, emit with no carbon limits whatsoever. They areresponsible for almost 40 percent of the carbon dioxide pollution in the United States.

President Obama has laid out a robust plan for tackling climate change, noting that we have an obligation to protect future generations from its effects.

“Today, for the sake of our children, and the health and safety of all Americans, I’m directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants,” he announced in presenting his climate plan on June 25, 2013.

The centerpiece of that plan is the task of cleaning up dangerous carbon pollution from power plants. These plants are our biggest source of carbon pollution, and while they must observe strict limits for arsenic, mercury, lead and other emissions, they face no limits for their carbon dioxide pollution.

As President Obama said, “That’s not right, that’s not safe, and it needs to stop.”

So the president is outlining a common-sense step, using a common-sense tool: the Clean Air Act. Just as we used this act to set limits for arsenic, mercury, lead and other dangerous pollution coming from power plants, we can set limits to efficiently cut the carbon pollution these plants emit.

Our two analyses demonstrate that NRDC’s proposal for reducing carbon pollution from power plants by 26 percent in 2020 will add over 200,000 jobs to the U.S. economy, save Americans money on their electric bills and avoid up to $60 billion in health impacts and other climate-related costs.

When we consider that climate change is already happening in the United States, already affecting communities all across the nation, we think that having a path forward to less carbon, more jobs and lower bills is the right path to take.

To learn more about United States Carbon and our energy reduction technology that will help you become greener, cleaner, and more socially responsible please contact us at (855) 393-7555 or visit our website: www.unitedstatescarbon.com

United States Carbon: Boulder City Council Wants 80 Percent Greenhouse Gas Reduction By 2050

Boulder should pursue an aggressive goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050, and it can do that without extreme austerity if it can add a lot of renewable energy in the next decade through a municipal utility, City Council members said Tuesday night.

At a study session, the City Council took up the question of what the city’s new climate goal should be, now that the Kyoto Protocol is widely viewed as inadequate to slow climate change: carbon neutrality or 80 percent reductions by 2050.

Many climate scientists believe at least 80 percent reductions are necessary to mitigate the worst effects of global warming.

Councilwoman Lisa Morzel supported the more ambitious goal of achieving complete carbon neutrality and pointed to the example of some European countries that have made significant strides in adding renewables and changing energy use.

City Council members did not take a vote Tuesday because they were in a study session, but a majority said they supported the 80 percent goal as more feasible and better defined.

Councilman Ken Wilson said to achieve complete carbon neutrality, the city would need to account for the goods residents buy, the food they eat, their airplane travel and every other product and service they use.

Without changing the energy supply, achieving an 80 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 would require Boulder residents to cut their electricity use a quarter by 2020 and in half by 2030. They would have to reduce their travel by car from an average of 20 miles a day in 2013 to less than four miles in 2050.

But Senior Environmental Planner Brett KenCairn said the future could be one of energy abundance and economic prosperity if Boulder adds significant renewable energy and positions itself as a leader in emerging technologies related to energy conservation and clean energy.

“This isn’t just the right thing to do morally and ethically,” he said. “It’s actually the most powerful economic engine we could engage our community in to position ourselves for the future. The path to austerity is if we stay tied to carbon energy. The future is very bright with renewable energy.”

For example, with cleaner electricity, people could drive electric cars without adding to the city’s emissions.

Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum said more important than the city’s stated goal is the rate at which it makes progress. With a municipal utility, the city could get half of its electricity from renewable sources within a few years.

But Councilman George Karakehian said the city may end up buying power from Xcel Energy for several years even if it forms its own utility.

Councilwoman Suzy Ageton said the city should be careful not to make commitments about things that are out of the city’s control.

Environmental planners are working on five- and 10-year targets to keep the city on track to meet the new climate goal, which is expected to be formally adopted in early 2014, as well as new tools to help them measure their progress.

The city may eventually adopt new commercial energy-efficiency mandates, but planners say they first need better ways to track energy use in more complicated commercial buildings that may have multiple tenants or a wide variety of business types.

Boulder is also working with other cities, along the Front Range and in the Pacific Northwest, to share ideas and experiences working to reduce emissions.

One idea the city is considering — borrowed from Portland — is the idea of “eco districts,” neighborhood organizations that would work on efforts to reduce emissions that matched local priorities, whether that was improving pedestrian safety so people can walk more or contracting collectively for solar panels.

The effort will be tied into other city initiatives, from the transportation master plan to neighborhood design to building codes.

To learn more about United States Carbon and our energy reduction technology that will help you become greener, cleaner, and more socially responsible please contact us at (855) 393-7555 or visit our website: www.unitedstatescarbon.com