Efficient Energy Policies Best Way to Close Carbon Gapwhite House's Trivial Climate Policy Fails to Cut Emissions

January 9, 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Applauding legislation introduced by Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman to reduce the threat of global warming, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) today released its analysis dramatizing the triviality of the Bush climate plan in the face of the growing threat of climate change.

"The Administration's plan allows emissions to grow substantially, creating a dangerous 'carbon gap,'" declared ACEEE's Deputy Director Bill Prindle. The McCain/ Lieberman bill, on the other hand, would provide meaningful reduction in carbon emissions, most of which can be achieved through cost-effective energy efficiency policies.

"Through extensive research, ACEEE and our colleagues have defined a set of practical and cost-effective efficiency policies that can get us back to 1990 carbon emissions levels while supporting economic growth," said Prindle. "It's clear that energy efficiency investments are the fastest and cheapest way to restore prosperity and protect our climate."

ACEEE's report, Smart Energy Policies, outlines the following nine policies that can bring U.S. carbon emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020:

  1. Increase automotive fuel economy standards. Vehicles are one of the fastest-growing sources of carbon emissions and also threaten energy security by requiring escalating oil imports.

  2. Create a national public benefits fund to support state-level energy efficiency programs. Some states do this now, but a national fund is needed to support an effective national effort.

  3. Strengthen appliance and equipment efficiency standards. Standards currently in place are saving consumers about $10 billion annually, and will avoid the need for 400 new power plants by 2020. Adding new products to the standards would multiply these savings

  4. Create tax incentives for high-efficiency vehicles, homes, buildings, and products. For a cost of less than $10 billion, incentives could generate savings that cumulate to 15 Quads of energy use.

  5. Expand federal research, development, and deployment (RD&D) programs to bring on the new high-efficiency technologies needed to reduce energy use and carbon emissions

  6. Promote clean, high-efficiency combined heat and power (CHP) systems. Modifying air pollution rules to recognize CHP's efficiency benefits, simplifying procedures for interconnecting to the grid, and providing tax incentives for smaller systems are keys to realizing this technology's potential.

  7. Develop voluntary emissions reductions agreements with industry. Some companies are beginning their own efforts to cut carbon emissions. The government should help with technical assistance, RD&D, and regulatory incentives if these voluntary efforts meet targets.

  8. Revise air pollution laws to encourage faster replacement of old, inefficient power plants. Eliminating the "grandfathering" provisions that keep inefficient plants running, and developing innovative "multi-pollutant" policies, would move us in the right direction.

  9. Advance building energy codes. The federal government should move aggressively to improve the stringency of national model energy codes. State and local governments should move rapidly to adopt these codes and enforce them effectively.

Several of these policies—fuel economy standards, public benefits fund, efficiency standards, tax incentives, RD&D, combined heat and power, and industrial voluntary agreements— have been part of the debate on energy bills in Congress over the last two years. Since Congress is likely to take up an energy bill again in 2003, it is important that the carbon emission reductions of these energy policies be recognized.

Smart Energy Policies can be downloaded for free at http://www.aceee.org/sector/national-policye012full.pdf.


Source: ACEEE staff analysis based on U.S Department of Energy and Energy Information Administration data