Monday, December 14, 2015

After Paris, Push to Expand Climate Regulations Could Grow

Emission estimates from EPA's Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2013. (Credit:  EPA) Click to Enlarge.
It was two months before the Paris climate talks when White House officials met with an unusual collection of businesses to talk about their efforts to cut carbon emissions.  These weren't obvious visitors.  They represented the industrial sector, one of the largest-emitting components of the economy, and one that isn't governed by carbon rules.

At least not yet.

In attendance were members of some of the most challenging industries: oil refiners, cement makers, paper processors, chemical companies and other manufacturers.  These are the kinds of facilities that many experts see as a key target of future climate policies under successors to President Obama.  They are also among the most difficult to regulate.  The sector has a mongrel membership of dissimilar factories and plants.  And it is defended by entrenched political interests.

The sector accounts for about 25 percent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions, and analysts say it's unlikely that President Obama's Paris promise to shave carbon by up to 28 percent in 10 years can be fulfilled without reducing the release of greenhouse gases at these facilities.  The administration hasn't explained exactly how it will meet its Paris goal.

For all the attention being paid to Obama's landmark rules on electric power plants, analysts predict it will account for only about a quarter of the CO2 reductions outlined in the administration's 2025 goal.  It calls for a 26 to 28 percent reduction from 2005 levels.

Other forces are also driving down emissions.  Increased use of natural gas, more renewable energy, flat electricity demand and better fuel economy in cars are all having an effect.  Proposed regulations that would clamp down on methane leaks at future oil and gas wells will also pitch in.

But there's still a gap between the president's promise and predicted reductions.  When all the actions to cut carbon are added up, the shortfall is as large as a third of the goal, according to analyses by business groups and environmental organizations.

"You can't even begin to fill the gap unless you address industrial emissions," said George David Banks, a former climate aide for President George W. Bush.

He argues in a recent paper that the next president will have to find untapped sources of emissions to fill in that hole.  They'll likely come from industrial sources in politically important states, like Ohio.  And the groundwork for that controversial effort, he writes, is likely already underway, at least initially.

Read more at After Paris, Push to Expand Climate Regulations Could Grow

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