Saturday, August 26, 2006

U.S. Can Cut Global Warming Pollution 20 Percent by 2020

Unknown Source: Posted on POG site

PORTLAND—Just weeks after the strongest global warming legislation in history was introduced in Congress, a new report released today by Environment Maine Research & Policy Center shows how the U.S. can meet – and even exceed – the legislation’s goals. The report finds that the U.S. can reduce its global warming emissions by nearly 20 percent within the next 15 years by boosting energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Rising to the Challenge: Six Steps to Cut Global Warming Pollution in the United States is the first report to provide a national blueprint for achieving the short-term cuts in emissions that science shows are needed to put the U.S. on a path to avoid the worst effects of a warming world.

“This report shows that we can do something about global warming, using tools that already exist, and that our economy likely will be stronger – and our lives better – if we do,” said Jennifer Andersen of Environment Maine Research & Policy Center. “Maine already adopted some of these strategies. We’re taking the lead, and now it’s time for Washington to act.”

The report details six challenging but feasible steps to improve the energy efficiency of our economy and use more renewable energy. These strategies, coupled with strong, mandatory limits on global warming emissions, would reduce U.S. global warming emissions by 19% below 2004 levels by 2020 (see chart below). At the same time, the steps would improve America’s long-term economic and energy security. The six steps include:

1. Stabilize vehicle travel. Americans drive nearly twice as many miles per year as they did a quarter-century ago, leading to increased emissions of global warming pollutants. Americans are already cutting back on driving as a result of higher gasoline prices, but many Americans have few realistic alternatives to driving. Through changes in public policy and development patterns, Americans can be given more transportation choices, thus reducing the growth in vehicle travel.

2. Increase vehicle fuel economy standards to 40 miles per gallon and set fuel economy standards for large trucks. Establishing federal fuel economy standards for cars during the 1970s succeeded in reducing gasoline consumption and oil imports, as well as global warming pollution. But the fuel economy of new vehicles is now lower than it was during most of the Reagan administration. All types of vehicles – from SUVs to compact cars – can be designed to be far more energy efficient using technologies that already exist or will soon be available. Similarly, major improvements in fuel economy are possible for heavy-duty trucks, which are currently exempt from fuel economy standards.

3. Replace 10% of vehicle fuel with biofuels or other clean alternatives. Ethanol and biodiesel that are produced cleanly and sustainably have the potential to significantly reduce global warming emissions from transportation, especially if these biofuels are produced from plant wastes and cellulose. Other vehicle technologies – like “plug-in” hybrids, electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles – have the potential to dramatically reduce global warming emissions in the future.

4. Reduce energy consumption in homes, business, and industry by 10% from current levels. Dramatic improvements in energy efficiency are possible in virtually every aspect of American life. For now, the U.S. can encourage weatherization of buildings, deployment of more efficient appliances and equipment, and efficiency improvements in industry. Soon, using new technologies such as those in zero-energy homes, we can transform the way we consume energy and achieve even larger improvements in efficiency.

5. Obtain 20% of our electricity from new renewable energy sources. America has virtually limitless potential for the generation of power from natural forces. By ramping up our use of wind power, solar power, geothermal and biomass energy, and other renewable forms of energy – and using much of that energy to replace power production at dirty, coal-fired power plants – the U.S. could dramatically reduce global warming emissions from electric power production.

6. Hold emissions from other sources to current levels. The five strategies listed above would address the largest sources of energy use and global warming emissions in the U.S. But some other sources of global warming pollution – such as emissions from air travel and emissions of some non-carbon dioxide global warming gases – are projected to increase significantly in the years ahead. The U.S. must stabilize, and eventually reduce, global warming pollution from all sectors of the economy.

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