State of U.S. global warming efforts: Business as Usual
President Bush spoke of "the serious challenge of global climate change" in his State of the Union speech last night, and called for the U.S. to reduce gasoline consumption 20 percent over the next 10 years. The reduction in gasoline consumption would primarily be achieved through promotion of alternative fuels such as ethanol and liquefied coal. While it is a pleasant change to hear the president acknowledge the reality of the climate change problem and to propose measures that could significantly reduce U.S. consumption of foreign oil, his proposals do virtually nothing to combat global warming.
About one third of greenhouse gases emissions in the the U.S. come from cars and trucks. Thus, a 20% cut in gasoline consumption would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by about 6%, at best. Since a large portion of the gasoline reduction would come from liquefied coal--which, when burned, makes double the CO2 of burning gasoline--even this modest 6% decrease in emissions might end up at zero. The President offered no plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electric utilities or industry, whose emissions will continue to grow at about 2% per year. Overall, greenhouse gas emission will grow by 14% over the next decade under the President's plan, according to Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust. The consensus among most climate scientists is that emission of greenhouse gases must be radically cut 50-60% globally by 2050 in order to avoid dangerous levels of global warming. The President's business-as-usual plan to allow emissions to increase by 14% over the next decade will make it extremely difficult to achieve that goal, as the U.S. contributes about 25% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.