Friday, January 29, 2010

Feds Aim to Cut Greenhouse Gas Pollution 28% by 2020

By Colin Bennett
January 29, 2010

According a statement released by the White House, President Obama has directed all federal agencies to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by 28 percent by 2020. Considering the U.S. government is the largest consumer of energy in the country, the results of the cuts have the potential to be significant. In 2008, the combined total spent on electricity and fuel by all federal departments and agencies was over $24.5 billion. If the Feds reach their target they claim that they will save a "cumulative total of $8 to $11 billion in avoided energy costs through 2020." According to the White House, the savings is equal to more than 200 million barrels of oil and taking 17 million cars off the road for one year.

“As the largest energy consumer in the United States, we have a responsibility to American citizens to reduce our energy use and become more efficient,” said President Obama. “Our goal is to lower costs, reduce pollution, and shift Federal energy expenses away from oil and towards local, clean energy.”

President Obama hopes that Reducing and reporting GHG pollution "will ensure that the Federal Government leads by example in building the clean energy economy." Although specific on how the reduction goals will be met are sparse, the White House claims that "Actions taken under this Executive Order will spur clean energy investments that create new private-sector jobs, drive long-term savings, build local market capacity, and foster innovation and entrepreneurship in clean energy industries."

Of the few examples that they do provide, installing solar panels tops the list, although there is no mention of whether or not President Obama will replace the solar panels that Jimmy Carter put on the White House in the seventies (that were subsequently taken down by Ronald Regan). Other examples of emission reducing practices the Feds plan to employ include "tapping landfills for renewable energy, putting energy management systems in Federal buildings, and replacing older vehicles with more fuel efficient hybrid models."

Reactions from most environmental groups have yet to come out but Jason Von Kundra, Co-chair of Mason's Environmental Action Group has a lot to say about the president's goal. "The executive order is merely a baby step toward building the clean energy economy. To establish energy independence, mitigate the impact of climate change, and create new jobs, greater reduction commitments are necessary on the national level. This low reduction effecting only the federal government has a high baseline of 2008 emissions, an inadequate reduction for 2020, and lacks any commitment for 2050." Von Kundra also states that, "According to the International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2007 assessment, an 80%-95% reduction of GHG concentration by the year 2050 is needed to stay below 450ppm, which is still dangerously too high if we want to stabilize the climate. I appreciate Obama’s step in the right direction, but I’m holding my applause until I hear a commitment to carbon neutrality that will truly lead the way to a clean energy economy."

Federal efforts to reduce pollution can be tracked at the White House's Council of Environmental Quality website at:

Note: This piece has been edited since its original posting. Jason Von Kundra's quote "This low reduction effecting only the federal government has a high baseline of 2008 emissions, an inadequate reduction for 2010, and lacks any commitment for 2050" was corrected to say 2020 instead of 2010. The remainder of the piece is untouched.

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