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Editor's Blog

States Take Initiative to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

By Roberta
[Tuesday, August 07, 2007]

Three states recently announced ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse emissions because, in the words of New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine, "…In the absence of leadership on the federal level the burden has now fallen upon the state executives and legislatures to lead the way on this issue…". In addition to protecting the residents in their own states, proactive states are blazing the trail for others to follow.

This approach is not a typical one for the states that often prefer that the federal government stay out of state affairs, especially ones that are likely to cost everyone money. The difference is that individuals at the state level realize the seriousness of the situation and that they owe it to their constituents to mitigate on behalf of their people when the federal government refuses to take action.

Exactly what do these states plan to do to alleviate the situation? Each strategy is very different, but the anticipated outcome is the same, significant reduction of emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases as quickly as possible.

According to the bill passed in the New Jersey Legislature on June 21, 2007, greenhouse gas emissions generated by every sector of New Jersey's economy will be required to drop to the 1990 level (a reduction of about 13%) by 2020 and that emissions will be capped at 20% of the 2006 level by 2050. The bill will also require a statewide greenhouse-gas monitoring program that will apply to emissions from out-of-state power plants exporting electricity to New Jersey. There is a plan to charge emission fees to every company that emits CO2. The bill has resulted in complaints from business and industrial groups. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out in coming months. (New York Times article (subscription required), University of California press release)

In a bill signed into law by Governor Schwartzenegger in late January 2007, transportation fuels sold in California will have to contain 10% less carbon by 2020 (American Chemical Society: Environmental Science and Technology Online). This bill is unique in that it will provide a way to judge fuels from a life-cycle standpoint, not just from the tailpipe. This means that the amount of CO2 emitted during any phase of mining, manufacturing, transportation, etc. would have to be taken into account in measuring the CO2 emission, not just the CO2 emitted when the fuel is burned (known as cradle to grave). This bill will penalize high carbon fossil fuels (coal to liquid), because while the coal to liquid fuel may burn cleaner than gasoline, the process of producing it emits much more CO2 into the atmosphere

According to Professor Daniel Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis, "This new (California) policy is hugely important, and has never been done before. It will likely transform the energy industries...We anticipate much greater reductions after 2020." (A New Era for A New Era for Transportation Fuels: Governor Schwarzenegger's Low Governor Schwarzenegger's Low Carbon Fuel Standard and Other Carbon Fuel Standard and Other Transportation Initiatives).

Florida has taken a totally different and yet logical approach to the problem of climate change. In July 2007 Florida Governor Charlie Crist announced that he wants utilities to generate one-fifth of their electricity from renewables to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gases. This action is necessary because the federal government has failed to act on this critical issue. How will this be accomplished? The sunshine state has plenty of sunshine to power rooftop solar panels and renewable energy advocates are urging the state to help residents create thousands of mini power plants in their homes. Crist plans to call on the state to permit people who generate power at homes and businesses to lower utility bills by putting excess electricity back into the grid. Crist has also suggested the use of wind generators to accomplish the 20% reduction in use of electric energy. While he has not set a proposed date for reaching the goal, Mike Sole, secretary of the state's Department of Environmental Protection, suggested that the target date is 2020. (Reuters)

Other states have indicated their intent to take action in order to curb the emission of CO2. If the leaders of our country find the truth too inconvenient and choose not to see the handwriting on the wall, then someone else will have to do it for them. Fortunately, there are state leaders who are courageous enough to do what has to be done.


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Anonymous said...

On Sept 27th 2007, George Bush - President of the USA - will convene in Washington with 15 of the World's polluters. He says he will commit the United States to slashing its carbon emissions. The "uniter" that he is, his commitment's price is that the developing countries - China, India Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia - commit to similar cuts.

And the World become cleaner for ever thereafter.

Ken (EnvironmentalChemistry.com) said...

Given his track record on this issue for his entire presidency, I'm pretty skeptical that any real substance will come from his "commitments". It will be politics as normal. Make the sound bites sound good but only commit to modest changes that are soon glossed over.

Don't get me wrong, getting the United States and other top polluters to commit to similar pollution cuts (ala the old arms reduction treaties of the Soviet era) would be a great step forward. I am, however, skeptical that it will be more than a bunch of talk, political posturing and sound bites.

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