Originally posted at the Breakthrough Institute
[Update at end of post - 4/22/10 at 5:20 PST]
According to several reports, the trio of senators leading the effort to craft a climate and energy bill for release next Monday are back-peddling from earlier plans to implement a new fee on petroleum-based fuels such as gasoline amidst concerns that any new "gas tax" would trigger voter backlash.
Earlier reports of ongoing, private negotiations on a Senate climate and energy bill led by Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) indicated that the trio were planning to drop the 'economy-wide' cap and trade plan included in the House-passed Waxman-Markey bill in favor of a 'three sector' approach to regulating emissions from power plants, industry, and petroleum-based fuels.
A cap would be implemented on the power sector to begin with, with industry phased in at a later date, while the oil sector would be exempted from the plan. Instead, petroleum-based fuels, including gasoline and diesel fuel, would be subject to a "linked fee" that would be tied somehow to the price of carbon pollution credits under the power sector cap and trade program -- in effect, a variable tax on gasoline and other petroleum products.
Now however, the Wall Street Journal reports that Sen. Kerry vehemently declares, "There is no gas tax, there was no gas tax and there will never be a gas tax."
Another Journal article similarly reports:
The senators had been discussing the idea of using an indirect tax on gasoline to substitute for emissions caps on the oil industry, according to people familiar with the discussions. The White House last week said President Obama wouldn't support an increase in the current federal gas tax of 18.4 cents a gallon, and Messrs. Graham and Kerry have disavowed the idea of a gas-tax increase.As we await the release of the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman senate climate bill next Monday, there's thus little clarity about how, if at all, oil refiners and transportation fuels will fall under the bill's carbon regulations. The transportation sector is responsible for roughly one-third of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the second largest sectoral share after power plant emissions.
UPDATE: Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones is fresh off a conference call with Senator Kerry which revealed a few more details of the yet-to-be-released Senate climate bill. According to Sheppard, Kerry says the bill should now have the backing of at least three of the five big oil majors as well as the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group representing the country's investor-owned utilities. And here's the current scoop on the oil and transportation sector, according to Sheppard:
There will be no fee--or "gas tax"--on transportation fuels. Instead, oil companies would also be required to obtain pollution permits but will not trade them on the market like other polluters. How this would work is not yet clear.Looks like Kerry et al. are still trying to figure out how to increase the cost of gasoline through carbon fees without calling it a "gas tax." We'll see how that goes...
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Originally posted at the Breakthrough Institute
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Driven by record-high gas prices in the first half of the year and the economic crisis that hit in the later half of the year, United States greenhouse gas emissions plunged by the largest amount in decades, according to preliminary data released today by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, which drive global climate change, fell to 2.8% in 2008 to 5.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e), the lowest level of emissions in any year since 2000. Total U.S. energy consumption also fell 2.2% in 2008, the EIA reports.
(Sorry for poor image quality, blame the source: the EIA)
The drop in oil consumption in 2008 was the major driver of lower greenhouse gas emissions, as oil topped record prices throughout most of the year. Emissions from petroleum fell 6% in 2008, down 155 million metric tons CO2-e in 2008. Natural gas emissions rose slightly, inching up 1%, or 13 million metric tons CO2-e. Emissions from the combustion of coal fell 1.1%, by 23 million metric tons CO2-e.
Electricity generation was down 1% in 2008, leading the the drop in coal combustion, and a decline in electricity-sector emissions of 50 million metric tons CO2-e, a 2.1% drop. Electricity generation from non-carbon emitting sources (wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, etc.) increased by 18.6 billion kilowatt-hours (1.7 percent) in 2008, even as electricity generation overall fell, bringing the non-carbon share of generation up from 27.8% in 2007 to 28.5% in 2008.
In 2008, transportation CO2 emissions fell 5.2%, the largest annual decline since 1990. In contrast, transportation emissions have risen by 1.1% annually since 1990, as can be seen in the graphic to right.
Interestingly, emissions fell in 2008 despite an overall growth in economic output (GDP). While GDP plunged at an annual rate of 6.3% in the 4th quarter of 2008, as the economic crisis accelerated, GDP was up by 1.1% overall in 2008.
Emissions fell despite this economic growth due to an overall "decarbonization" of the economy, a fall in energy intensity and emissions intensity of the economy which has held strong for the past decades (see graphic to right). The EIA reports that energy-related CO2 emissions per unit of GDP dropped 3.8 percent in 2008, enough to outpace the modest economic growth in the year. The emissions intensity of the economy is the product of two factors, energy intensity of the economy (energy/GDP), which includes energy efficiency and productivity factors, and CO2 intensity of the energy supply (CO2/energy), which factors in the mix of energy sources and fuels used. According to the EIA, both factors fell in 2008, with energy per GDP falling 3.3% and CO2 intensity of the energy supply inching down 0.6%.
For more, check out the preliminary report from the Energy Information Administration here. The full report will be released in "the fall of 2009."
Monday, January 26, 2009
Today, Barack Obama announced several measures to increase America's energy independence and reduce the threat of global climate change. In a speech delivered at the White House, President Obama said, "These are extraordinary times," adding, "At a time of such great challenge for America, no single issue is as fundamental to our future as energy."
After briefly discussing the nation's economic challenges, Obama went on to link today's challenges to our dependence on oil and fossil fuels:
"America's dependence on oil is one of the most serious threats that our nation has faced. It bankrolls dictators, pays for nuclear proliferation and funds both sides of our struggle against terrorism. It puts the American people at the mercy of shifting gas prices, stifles innovation, and sets back our ability to compete.President Obama noted that every US president from Richard Nixon on has promised efforts to secure America's energy independence, saying:
These urgent dangers to our national and economic security are compounded by the long-term threat of climate change, which, if left unchecked, could result in violent conflict, terrible storms, shrinking coastlines, and irreversible catastrophe."
"Year after year, decade after decade, we've chosen delay over decisive action. Rigid ideology has overruled sound science. Special interests have overshadowed common sense. Rhetoric has not led to the hard work needed to achieve results and our leaders raise their voices each time there's a spike on gas prices, only to grow quiet when the price falls at the pump."Mr. Obama said that today, "America has arrived at a crossroads," adding that it is now the nation's time to "choose whether to risk the peril that comes with our current course or to seize the promise of energy independence. And for the sake of our security, our economy and our planet, we must have the courage and commitment to change."
President Obama then promised, "It will be the policy of my administration to reverse our dependence on foreign oil while building a new energy economy that will create millions of jobs."
He recognized that the challenge will not be easy. "I cannot promise a quick fix," he said. "No single technology or set of regulations will get the job done."
Obama then promised to "commit ourselves to steady, focused, pragmatic pursuit of an America that is freed from our energy dependence and empowered by a new energy economy that puts millions of our citizens to work. "The president then went on to announce what he called "the first steps on our journey toward energy independence," including new investments in Obama's economic stimulus package to harness clean energy, a directive to move forward with new regulations to increase the efficiency of American cars and trucks passed by Congress in December 2007, and a new directive to the Environmental Protection Agency to allow California and 13 other states to set stricter standards for greenhouse gas emissions from the tailpipes of personal vehicles. "Each step," President Obama said, "begins to move us in a new direction, while giving us the tools that we need to change."
Here is the remainder of his speech:
"First we must take bold action to create a new American energy economy that creates millions of jobs for our people. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan before Congress places a downpayment on this economy.Read more!
It will put 460,000 Americans to work with clean energy investments and double the capacity to generate alternative energy over the next three years. It will lay down 3,000 miles of transmission lines to deliver this energy to every corner of our country. It will save taxpayers $2 billion a year by making 75 percent of federal buildings more efficient. And it'll save working families hundreds of dollars on their energy bills by weatherizing 2 million homes.
This is the boost that our economy needs and the new beginning that our future demands.
By passing the bill, Congress can act where Washington has failed to act over and over again for 30 years. We need more than the same old empty promises. We need to show that this time it will be different. This is the time that Americans must come together on behalf of our common prosperity and security.
Second, we must ensure that the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow are built right here in the United States of America.
Increasing fuel efficiency in our cars and trucks is one of the most important steps that we can take to break our cycle of dependence on foreign oil. It will also help spark the innovation needed to ensure that our auto industry keeps pace with competitors around the world.
We will start by implementing new standards for model year 2011, so that we use less oil and families have access to cleaner, more efficient cars and trucks.
This rule will be a downpayment on a broader and sustained effort to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
Congress has passed legislation to increase standards to at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020. That 40 percent increase in fuel efficiency for our cars and trucks could save over 2 million barrels of oil every day: nearly the amount of oil that we import from the Persian Gulf.
Going forward, my administration will work on a bipartisan basis in Washington and with industry partners across the country to forge a comprehensive approach that makes our economy stronger and our nation more secure.
Third, the federal government must work with, not against, states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
California has shown bold and bipartisan leadership through its effort to forge 21st-century standards, and over a dozen states have followed its lead.
But instead of serving as a partner, Washington stood in their way. This refusal to lead risks the creation of a confusing and patchwork set of standards that hurts the environment and the auto industry.The days of Washington dragging its heels are over. My administration will not deny facts; we will be guided by them. We cannot afford to pass the buck or push the burden onto the states.
And that's why I'm directing the Environmental Protection Agency to immediately review the denial of the California waiver request and determine the best way forward. This will help us create incentives to develop new energy that will make us less dependent on the oil that endangers our security, our economy and our planet.
As we move forward, we will fully take into account the unique challenges facing the American auto industry and the taxpayer dollars that now support it. And let me be clear: Our goal is not to further burden an already struggling industry; it is to help America's automakers prepare for the future.
This commitment must extend beyond the short-term assistance for businesses and workers. We must help them thrive by building the cars of tomorrow and galvanizing a dynamic and viable industry for decades to come.
Finally, we will make it clear to the world that America is ready to lead. To protect our climate and our collective security, we must call together a truly global coalition. I've made it clear that we will act, but so too must the world. That's how we will deny leverage to dictators and dollars to terrorists, and that's how we will ensure that nations like China and India are doing their part, just as we are now willing to do ours.
It is time for America to lead because this moment of peril must be turned into one of progress.
If we take action, we can create new industries and revive old ones, we can open new factories and power new farms, we can lower costs and revive our economy. We can do that and we must do that.
There's much work to be done; there is much further for us to go. But I want to be clear from the beginning of this administration that we have made our choice: America will not be held hostage to dwindling resources, hostile regimes and a warming planet.
We will not be put off from action because action is hard.
Now is the time to make the tough choices. Now is the time to meet the challenge at this crossroad of history by choosing a future that is safer for our country, prosperous for our planet, and sustainable.
Those are my priorities, and they're reflected in the executive orders that I'm about to sign.
Thank you so much for being here."
Monday, May 05, 2008
Posted by David J. Petersen. Cross-posted from the Sustainability Law Blog.
According to the Urban Land Institute and Smart Growth America, transportation-based carbon emissions are a three-legged stool: vehicle fuel efficiency, the carbon content of the fuel itself, and the number of miles driven.
Most efforts to reduce transportation emissions have focused on fuel efficiency. Lower-carbon fuels such as biofuels are also rapidly becoming part of our fuel supply. However, not much attention has been given to reducing the third leg – miles traveled.
How do we reduce miles traveled? The classic approach is to improve public transit, but that is a long-term and expensive solution, and there is a limit to the number of travelers who will take public transit no matter how available it is. A more novel approach is to consider how land use planning impacts transportation. This means containing sprawl, of course, but it also means planning uses and zones in ways that mimic people's driving habits so as to reduce the miles necessary to complete vehicle trips. For example, placing more small-scale commercial centers in residential neighborhoods, rather than forcing everyone to shop at big box stores miles away, will reduce vehicle trips and the drivers won't even realize its happening.
This isn't just theoretical; the land use advocacy group 1000 Friends of Oregon is leading efforts to set goals and adopt policies for land use planning in Oregon to implement these principles. You can read more in the Oregonian's editorial here.