The EPA steps it up--finally

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It’s looking like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will finally face the scientific facts and recognize that carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other greenhouse gases aren’t good for us.

Still, despite the alarm sounded by some powerful business interests, there’s little chance that the country’s climate change problems will be addressed primarily through some kind of heavy-handed enforcement system. Unless I’m giving them too much political credit, the Obama administration is moving aggressively in order to prod Congress to do something more feasible and effective.

And they've got to do it fast. The central issue isn’t that the world is threatened by a bunch of environmental bad guys, though undoubtedly some are out there. It’s that we aren’t paying the full long-term cost of producing greenhouse gases, and we don’t have time, for health or economic reasons, to see if tree-hugging goodwill will someday triumph over market factors. Somehow the price of polluting—along with the savings of not polluting—has to be more accurately reflected in economic decision-making, whether it’s through heavy regulation or, more likely, a cap-and-trade system, an emissions tax, tax credits for high performers, or a combination of these and other approaches.

As an initial step, the EPA may soon require fuel and energy companies, manufacturers, and other industries to report exactly how many greenhouse gases they’re emitting. The agency already tallies up the annual nationwide figures, which provide a glimpse of the activities that would be most impacted (i.e., costly) under any kind of serious new system.

 

SOURCE

EMISSIONS (MILLIONS OF METRIC TONS)

SHARE OF TOTAL

 

 

 

ELECTRICTY GENERATION--COAL

1967.6

27.6%

INDUSTRIAL ACTIVITY

857.2

12.0%

PASSENGER CARS

625

8.8%

LIGHT-DUTY TRUCKS

522

7.3%

MEDIUM- AND HEAVY-DUTY TRUCKS

407.4

5.7%

ELECTRICITY GENERATION--NATURAL GAS

373.8

5.2%

RESIDENTIAL HEAT AND ENERGY USE

340.6

4.8%

COMMERCIAL HEAT AND ENERGY USE

214.4

3.0%

AGRICULTURAL SOIL MANAGEMENT

207.9

2.9%

COMMERCIAL AIRCRAFT

153.6

2.2%

METHANE PRODUCED BY LIVESTOCK

139

2.0%

LANDFILLS

132.9

1.9%

NATURAL GAS SYSTEMS

104.7

1.5%

MANURE MANAGEMENT

58.7

0.8%

COAL MINING

57.6

0.8%

ELECTRICITY GENERATION--PETROLEUM

55.3

0.8%

IRON AND STEEL PRODUCTION

52.2

0.7%

RAIL

50.8

0.7%

CEMENT PRODUCTION

44.5

0.6%

WASTEWATER TREATMENT

29.3

0.4%

PETROLEUM SYSTEMS

28.8

0.4%

WASTE INCINERATION

20.8

0.3%

RECREATIONAL BOATS

17.1

0.2%

BUSES

12.1

0.2%

 

 

 

TOTAL

7125.2

100.0%

 

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