Well, there’s little joy in Eco-wackoville tonight. President Bush just announced his Clear Skies Initiative. He does intend to further reduce power-plant emissions of the two worst air pollutants, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. But the eco-wackos hoped that the Clinton-Gore moles deep within the Environmental Protection Agency could somehow convince Dubya that carbon dioxide is a pollutant. Which it isn’t. Do you suppose they’ll eventually realize that he’s a lot smarter than they think?
In a small victory for the eco-wackos, the moles did get the president to cap power-plant emissions of mercury. Of the estimated 5,000 to 10,000 tons of mercury released into the environment every year worldwide, only 50 tons are emitted by U.S. power plants. The Department of Energy estimates that the cost of drastically reducing current U.S. mercury emissions would cost consumers $7 billion per year. That’s $100,000 annually per pound. Ugh!
With the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act, Congress had already capped total U.S. emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide and directed the EPA to allocate emission rights to each operator of fossil-fuel plants. Whenever an operator is able to produce fewer pollutants per megawatt generated than the EPA has allocated, that excess allocation can be sold on the open market. The Bush Clear Skies Initiative will require the EPA to set up a cap-and-trade system for mercury too.
Unfortunately, until now, fossil-fuel plant operators were not allowed to shift to nuclear power plants, which emit no pollutants when operating and sell their unneeded emissions allocations. They should be allowed to do that.
There is also not much joy in Eco-wackoville over the just-announced Global Climate Change Initiative. Evidently “Kenny-Boy” Lay was unable to get Bush to cap carbon dioxide emissions a la Kyoto. Even worse for the wackos, in his new initiative, Bush defines man-made greenhouse-gas intensity in terms of gross domestic product, and seeks to lower American emissions intensity from an estimated 183 metric tons per million dollars of GDP in 2002 to 151 tons by 2012.
That’s no good; the eco-wackos want to cripple the U.S. economy, not make it more efficient.
Worse still, participation in the new initiative will be voluntary. The president simply proposes to improve the methodology used for the Energy Department’s greenhouse-gas registry established by Congress in the Energy Policy Act of 1992. The registry credits voluntary reductions of greenhouse-gas emissions and carbon fixation, achieved “through any measures whatsoever,” including shifting from coal to nuclear power.
For example, the Watts Bar nuclear plant began commercial service in March 1996, and, by displacing fossil-fired generation, was credited in the Energy registry with reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 5.5 million metric tons in 1996 and 7.1 million metric tons in 1997.
Is there any real bad news for us in the just-announced Bush initiatives? Well, maybe.
It’s not clear what the president intends to do with the U.S. Implementation Joint Initiative established in the early years of the Clinton administration. Administered jointly by the EPA and the Energy Department, the initiative essentially established a voluntary international carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program similar to what the Kyoto Protocol would have actually required.
The joint initiative solicits “sustainable development” projects in the developing world, for which there is private American investment and participation. For those projects it accepts, it awards credits for carbon dioxide “sequestration” or emissions reduction. A typical project involves a U.S. company buying a tract of rain forest in South America that is slated to be converted to agricultural use. The American company gets joint initiative credits for not allowing the conversion.
The largest project accepted by the joint initiative is an Atlantic Methanol Production Company plant on Bioko Island in the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, which will convert natural gas into commercial methanol for export on the world market. The joint initiative credits AMPCO with reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 78 million tons over Bioko Island during the project’s 25-year life span.
Of course, if all that methanol is then imported into the U.S. and burned, then the result of this project will be to increase the amount of carbon dioxide emitted here by that same 78 million tons.
If President Bush really wants to reduce man-made carbon dioxide emissions here in the United States, then the first thing he ought to do is get rid of the Joint Implementation Initiative. It does us no good, and could do us a lot of harm.