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Saturday, January 21, 2006

6 E.P.A. Chiefs Say 'Its Time to Act' on Greenhouse Gases

The New York Times reports that six former heads of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, including five who served under Republican presidents, have strongly urged the Bush administration to act more aggressively to limit the emission of greenhouse gases linked to climate change.

Speaking on a panel last Wednesday that also included the current EPA chief, Stephen L. Johnson, they generally agreed that the need to address global warming was growing urgent and that the continuing debate over what percentage of the problem was caused by human activities was a waste of time.

The NY Times article goes on:

"Why argue about things you can't prove?" said William D. Ruckelshaus, who served under President Richard M. Nixon from 1970 to 1973 and President Ronald Reagan from 1983 to 1985. "We need to fashion policies with proper incentives to reduce the amount of carbon we are putting in the atmosphere. There are all kinds of things we can do right now, and we ought to be taking those steps."

Mr. Johnson defended the agency's current policies, saying it has invested $20 billion since 2001 in research and technologies intended to cut carbon emissions through dozens of programs.

But the blunt opinions of Mr. Johnson's Republican predecessors served as a sharp reminder that since Mr. Bush took office in 2001, neither the president nor the Republican-led Congress has proposed any comprehensive plan to limit carbon emissions from vehicles, utilities and other sources, a problem that Mr. Bush's own Department of Energy predicts will grow worse.

The agency's Annual Energy Outlook for 2006, which was released last month, showed that carbon emissions from inside the United States are projected to increase by 37 percent by 2030.

While Mr. Bush has accepted the notion that the earth is warming, Congress has bogged down in debate over whether and how new air quality legislation should include a plan to deal with carbon emissions. The strongest measure approved so far was a Senate resolution passed last summer that recommended exploring how to put emission reductions in place.

But the former Republican administrators, along with one Democrat on the panel, Carol M. Browner, who served under President Bill Clinton, said administration officials and Congress had spent too much time debating.

"To sit back and push this away and deal with it sometime down the road is dishonest and self-destructive," said Russell E. Train, who led the agency under Nixon from 1973 to 1977.

William K. Reilly, the E.P.A. administrator under the first President Bush, attributed much of the inaction to an enduring skepticism from influential officials he called "outliers," who remain unconvinced that climate change is an urgent issue. As a leading skeptic in Congress, Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, convened a hearing last year with the novelist Michael Crichton, who argued that policy makers should take into account views held by scientists who believe global warming is part of a natural cycle.

Mr. Reilly said, "This is a debate we should not be having," arguing for action over debate.

Lee M. Thomas, the agency administration in the second Reagan administration, said the time had come for environmental and industry groups, the usual antagonists in environmental policy, to set aside their differences in favor of a plan like the one used to curb the effects of acid rain.

"This is the same kind of situation," Mr. Thomas said. "We've got to start on this action. We can't wait."

Ms. Browner, a strong proponent of a national policy to cut emissions, said she was encouraged to hear her Republican colleagues take aim at the administration.

"It's huge," she told reporters after the panel discussion. "It's a testament to the reality of the issue and the recognition that it's time to do something."

So my question is, how many people does it take saying things like this to get the Federal Government on board? This adds six former heads of the US EPA to a list that includes the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the American Academy of Sciences, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as the National Sciences Academies of all the G8 nations as well as India, China and Brazil and of course the governments of over 150 signatories to the Kyoto Protocol!

The states are starting to act on their own in the absence of federal leadership - i.e. California and others' adoption of CO2 emission standards for vehicles and the Northeast's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative - but its high-time for the Feds to get with the picture!

But I guess
Michael Crichton still isn't convinced so maybe we should hold off and keep debating ...


writ of summons said...

I just blogged on this story for my friends at Scrutiny Hooligans. They are mostly a political oriented blog, but they have a great interest in Peak Oil and environmental issues. A couple of cool things that I've learned recently:
There is a company called Terrapass that helps people offset the carbon emissions from their cars. They sell you a "Terrapass" and use the proceeds to invest in clean energy projects. I bought one, it was only $70 per year. Here is my blog entry on the subject. Here is a recent news story about Terrapass and a couple of other companies doing similar things.

I'm also a UC Davis alum and I get their monthly magazine. They have a huge agriculture program and there was a really interesting story on conservation tillage. This is a farming practice that my sacrifice a small a amount of yield but has big benefits in reducing the intensity of farming and helping to sequester carbon from the atmosphere into the soil. So much so that they can sell carbon credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange.

I'm still blogging away on biofuels at Interstellar Overdrive. I'm trying to get two Mercedes diesels converted to run on SVO so I can sell them. The blog is mostly a biofuel news digest with an occasional article on related topics.

Keep up the awesome work Watthead!


Jesse Jenkins said...

Writ- Thanks for the comments. I also purchase carbon offsets to offset my driving emissions (I also purchase 100% wind energy for my aparment's energy use). It's a great way to own up to the impacts of your lifestyle while suppporting renewable energy, energy efficiency, reforestation and other projects that reduce CO2 emissions.

I was aware of Terrapass when shopping for carbon offsets but I ended up going with ClimateCare. They're a UK-based outfit but I ended up choosing them because they do their carbon reduction work in developing countries and many of their projects also have development and health benefits as well as environmental benefits.

For example, many of their offsets represent projects in various countries - India, Bagnladesh, Honduras and Madagscar - to disseminate energy-efficient cooking stoves which not only reduce CO2 emissions but reduce the harmful interior air quality resulting from traditional cooking stoves as well as reducing the amount of fuel needed and thus fuel expenses or time spent collecting fuel. This gives more time/money for other tasks, boost avialable income, provides healthier living spaces etc. for families in developing countries.

Also, working in developing countries has the added benefit of giving you more bang for your buck. Not only are projects usually cheaper in developing countries but the energy use they offset is generally from the dirtiest and of course cheapest energy sources that make up the bulk of energy supply in developing countries - i.e. coal-fired plants for electricity and innefficient wood-burning stoves for heat and cooking.

Remember that these countries don't have the same emissions standards for their coal plants as we do in the U.S. and the vast bulk of their electricity needs are likely provided by coal (these countries usually can't afford the money for more advanced natural gas plants or large infrastructure projects like hydro) so every kilwatt-hour of energy offset by these measures goes a lot further towards reducing harmful pollutants. (Other ClimateCare projects include installation of compact flourescent lighting in coal-dominated South Africa).

I'd also like to plug Portland, OR-based ClimateTrust who also sell carbon offsets and do many of their projects in developing countries.

Perhaps I'll do a post on carbon offsets, green tags and clean energy purchases soon...