Monthly Archives: May 2009

Opportunity: Reduce emissions of the overlooked accomplices of CO2

The global warming culprit we hear the most about is carbon dioxide (CO2), but human activity produces a host of other, shorter-lived pollutants that act as “partners in crime” in contributing to climate change.

Until recently, most of the attention paid to these pollutants has centered around their detrimental effects on air quality and human health – the pollutants include fine particles such as black carbon and gases that form smog.

But because these pollutants disappear from the atmosphere relatively quickly, they also give us an important opportunity to put the brakes on the rapid rise in global temperature. If people around the world can reduce the amounts that they emit, everyone will see an immediate benefit and help avoid dangerous tipping points in the climate system over the next few decades.

My colleagues Nadine Unger and Drew Shindell at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and I just published a paper in the journal Atmospheric Environment that offers additional insight into the climatic role of these pollutants. Our findings come at a time when activity on domestic and international climate policy in general and on black carbon policy in particular is ramping up.

For this paper, we delved into emissions from two key sectors, transportation and power generation, for the U.S. and the world. We primarily used a global climate model developed at NASA GISS that simulates the transport of pollutants by wind and the chemical and physical reactions that transform the pollutants into smog and particles. The model also calculates the warming or cooling effect of the different pollutants.

One of our important findings is that transportation is a particularly good sector to target quickly for emissions controls because it produces a lot of black carbon (think: diesel exhaust) and ozone-producing gases, in addition to CO2. In contrast, emissions cuts in the power generation sector do not offer the same short-term opportunity. That sector emits little black carbon, but it does create much sulfate particle pollution. Sulfate particles are bad for air quality and acid rain, but in the short term actually counteract the warming effects of CO2 emissions. Of course, it is essential to clean up the power sector to address long-term climate damage from CO2, as well as health problems from sulfate particles, ozone smog and other pollutants. But short-term opportunities to slow global warming are more significant in the transportation sector.

We also considered a hypothetical example of switching the transportation sector to a zero-emissions or electric power source, such as in plug-in hybrid electric or pure electric technologies.The result: A hefty benefit for the climate.

The switch to a zero-emissions or electric power source would decrease the warming effect if you just consider CO2 emissions.  (Though increased CO2 emissions from the electricity generation sector would offset the decrease in direct emissions from vehicles to a certain extent.)

But reducing the non-CO2 pollutants provides even more benefit for the climate. Zero-emission or electric transportation would greatly reduce black carbon emissions.  The short-term benefits to be gained from focus on the transportation sector are important for policymakers to note.

Last week’s announcement by President Obama on national greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks is a significant step in this direction. Further action is needed to clean up the exhaust from existing heavy-duty trucks and other diesel-powered transport, both in this country and internationally.

Unger and her colleagues are working to expand the published analysis to include a full suite of economic sectors, including industry, non-road transport and agriculture, and additional greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide.

Look for another paper in the near future.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Science / Read 2 Responses

Enron Invented Cap and Trade


“Christopher C. Horner, author of the book ‘Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud and Deception to Keep You Misinformed’ noted that it was Enron that invented the concept of cap and trade and then profited off it until it collapsed in disgrace. He said that Waxman-Markey would bring about ‘Soviet-style planning.'”

— From “Hoosier GOP Sound Alarm Over Cap & Trade” by Brian A. Howey, editor of the Howey Politics Indiana blog, May 27, 2009.


Let’s set aside the fact that Christopher Horner is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has received more than $2 million in funding over the last decade from ExxonMobil, arguably the number one corporate opponent of any climate action over the last 20 years.

Let’s also set aside the fact that Christopher Horner is also counsel to the Cooler Heads Coalition, a global warming skeptics group that exists for the express purpose of questioning global warming science and blocking climate action.

Let’s deal with the claim straight up.

Enron did not invent cap and trade. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

For one thing, Enron didn’t exist until the late 1980s after the merger of InterNorth and Houston Natural Gas. By that time, the concept of cap and trade as a policy to cut pollution had been debated for more than a decade.

Cap and trade was later codified in U.S. law in the 1990 Clean Air Act to reduce America’s acid rain pollution. The Economist crowned the acid rain cap and trade policy “probably the greatest green success story of the past decade.” (July 6, 2002).

EDF played a leading role in promoting the acid rain pollution cap, and take it from us Enron played no role in the debate what-so-ever.

As for “Soviet-style planning” – the dictionary defines HYPERBOLE as an “obvious and intentional exaggeration.” Perhaps we should amend it to include Mr. Horner’s statement.

Mr. Horner either doesn’t know what he’s talking about or is dissembling. Far from a command and control program, cap and trade is a market-based policy designed to unleash investments in the clean energy economy. By definition, it is the opposite of letting the government pick winners and losers.

In fact, the first President Bush — not exactly a promoter of Soviet style economics — signed the 1990 cap and trade law because it was a centrist, efficient way to effectively cut pollution. And it still is.

There is much to debate when it comes to how to solve global warming. We welcome Mr. Horner to the debate, but would urge him to do his homework and get his facts straight.

Posted in News / Comments are closed

Gov. Mitch Daniels: Let's Chat


“Cap and trade legislation fails the test of government that works. The cost of this policy will be certain, massive and immediate. The benefits of these policies will be dubious, miniscule and decades in the distance. I really do believe that before we take a plunge of this magnitude, people should talk it over, think it through, take a deep breath and consider whether there’s a better way to achieve goals we all agree on.”

— Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels speaking at an energy summit in Indianapolis, IN, May 27, 2009.


First of all, cap and trade has already been proven as successful government policy. It was used in the 1990 Clean Air Act to reduce the pollution that causes acid rain.

The results? Well, the sulfur dioxide cap worked so well that The Economist crowned it “probably the greatest green success story of the past decade.” (July 6, 2002).

In the 1990s, the acid rain cap and trade program achieved 100% compliance in reducing sulfur dioxide emissions. In fact, power plants participating in the program reduced SO2 emissions 22% — 7.3 million tons — below mandated levels.

All this has been achieved at a fraction of the cost estimates. Prior to the launch of the program, costs were estimated to run from $3-$25 billion per year. After the first 2 years of the program, the costs were actually $0.8 billion per year and the long-term costs of the program are expected to be around $1.0-$1.4 billion per year, far below early projections.

The doom-and-gloomers were wrong then. And they’re wrong now.

As for taking a deep breath and talking it over, Governor Daniels may be new to the debate, but global warming has been a known and serious problem for decades.

Environmental Defense Fund first starting working on the threat of global warming in Reagan era. The Kyoto Protocol was negotiated more than 10 years ago. The McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act was first introduced in 2003. And there have been three votes in the Senate on moving forward on a cap and trade bill.

We’ve had ample time to debate the pros and cons. Governor Daniels may not want to move forward on this policy. That’s his right. But, he owes it to his constituents and the American people to base his arguments on facts, not misleading and baseless hyperbole.

Posted in News / Comments are closed

Infographic: Carbon Cap Leads to Jobs

As readers of this blog are well aware, capping carbon pollution will help create jobs, make the U.S. energy-independent, and fight global warming. A carbon cap is a crucial step towards a safe and prosperous American future — but many Americans don’t have a clear idea of how a carbon cap will work.

So we designed this graphic, illustrating how capping carbon pollution stimulates the economy and creates jobs.

It’s designed to be easy for reporters, editors, and bloggers around the country to use. We’re hoping it will help them explain the concept to readers, even while they’re busy covering the the political story of the Waxman-Markey Bill working its way through Congress.

Please post or link to it from wherever you want to! (We also have a bigger web-friendly version and  files meant for printing.)

Posted in Jobs / Read 4 Responses

New Momentum to Pass a Carbon Cap in 2009

The House Energy and Commerce Committee just approved landmark climate change legislation, the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

EDF president Fred Krupp said it this way: “The committee today put climate legislation on the path to the President’s desk.”

This vote is much more than a procedural milestone. To pass this bill, the committee had to bridge regional differences among its diverse membership. It succeeded in producing a strong bill that can win broad support in the House and serve as a template for quick Senate action.

The bill, also known as the Waxman-Markey bill, draws on key provisions of a legislative blueprint negotiated by the 25 leading companies from every sector of the U.S. economy and the five non-profit groups in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. Committee action on the bill also drew support from labor unions like the United Auto Workers and the Steelworkers, faith groups, and state and local officials.

The timing couldn’t be better.  Fred Krupp says, “As the President’s economic advisors said this week, a cap on global warming pollution is essential to our economic recovery and our long-term financial health.”

We look forward to action by the full House this summer.

Posted in Climate Change Legislation / Comments are closed

New Ads: USCAP Calls on Congress to Cap Carbon and Unleash Innovation

Ad placed by USCAP in various publications today.Today, in an ad running in four Capitol Hill publications, the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) is calling on Energy and Commerce committee members to advance the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

USCAP is a coalition of businesses and environmental organizations that have come together to call on Congress to cap carbon emissions. With the introduction of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, USCAP released a statement [PDF] on the legislation, and followed with this landmark coalition ad.

The ad references USCAP’s Blueprint for Legislative Action, which spells out how a cap on carbon emissions will protect the U.S. economy and our environment.

The Energy and Commerce committee is expected to vote the American Clean Energy and Security Act today.  We have been following the mark-up of the bill, and debunking the nay-sayers latest myths. Stay tuned for more updates.

Posted in News / Comments are closed