Analyses Finds Law Would Cut Carbon with Modest Impact on Economy

Capitol Rotunda The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Energy Information Administration (EIA) have both published analyses of Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Jeff Bingaman’s (D-NM) proposed “Low Carbon Economy Act of 2007” (S. 1766)

Using a cap-and-trade system, the Act aims to cut global warming emissions to 2006 levels by 2020, 1990 levels by 2030, and then 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Both reports found that the Act would cut emissions 24-26 percent from the “business-as-usual” approach by 2030, while the impact on economic growth and prices would be “modest.” The studies also found that the legislation would spur new clean technology and carbon capture development in coal plants.

Among the details of the reports:

  • Emissions will be cut most drastically in the electricity sector using nuclear power and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology for new coal plants, along with efficiency measures and renewables. If CCS and/or nuclear power are not employed, the size of emissions cuts would greatly decrease.
  • The residential, commercial, industrial and transportation sectors would only see modest cuts in emissions
  • Cumulative GDP losses by 2030 range between 0.02-0.07 percent
  • Renewable energy like wind, solar, and biomass will play a significant role in cutting emissions (but coal with carbon capture and storage will be responsible for avoiding a much larger amount of CO2)
  • The Midwest and the South (both heavily reliant on coal) would see the biggest decrease in emissions

Senator Bingaman commented in a news release:

The EIA and EPA reports both show that a well-designed climate program can reduce emissions at a low-cost to our economy. Both studies conclude that our climate change legislation would dramatically transform technologies to spur carbon capture and sequestration, greatly lowering emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Interestingly, while the emissions targets in the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2007 (S. 280) imply larger cuts than the Specter-Bingaman Act, the EPA found that the McCain-Lieberman proposal relies heavily on international carbon offsets and therefore both bills result in similar levels of domestic global warming emissions cuts.

Energy Information Administration
Environmental Protection Agency

  1. Timothy B. Hurst

    Without reading the legislation (or the reports) it seems like this bill almost essentializes nuclear and carbon-capture. As much as I’m torn about nuclear, I think it needs to be part of the discussion. That is, except for places where valuable fresh water would be used in the production process (i.e. arid west or anywhere else water supply is a problem).

    CCS technologies sound good, but they are also tremendously energy intensive and potentially quite risky (especially seabed sequestration).

    I think I need to take a better look at the legislation before casting any more judgment (but so far, I’m not impressed.).

  2. Carl Foner

    I think the fact that the federal government is considering lowering carbon emissions is a good thing. But if I remember correctly, the head of the IPCC says we have to act very quickly. So cutting back to 2006 levels by 2020 doesn’t seem like it’s quick enough.

    While I understand the temptation to use nuclear power to help cut carbon emissions, I’m worried that we’ll be trading one problem (climate change) for another (nuclear waste).

  3. Adam Long

    Considering that there is still speculation on whether CCS will even work or can be done effectively I wonder why they are relying so heavily on it. There are proven technologies that are mentioned(wind,solar) that won’t work everywhere, but create zero carbon emmissions where they can be implemented. Why doesn’t the act push more for these? It seems to be barely a side item.

  4. jcwinnie

    Cap and trade is “guess which walnut shell has the pea under it.” In other words, it is a great opportunity for bamboozling. All you have to do is get the suckers to the game.

    Mr. Gore also recommended to Congress implementation of a carbon tax. Such an approach is adjudeged political suicide, something that the pols aver.

    Follow the logic here, they are unwilling to commit political suicide, but ecocide is O.K. Go figure!

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