Changing climates

Dec. 6, 2002
The White House wants industry's help reshaping climate change policy.

Maureen Lorenzetti

The White House wants industry's help reshaping climate change policy.
To that end, the Department of Energy is soliciting comments from oil companies and any other interested parties on how to target federally funded greenhouse gas emissions research. Comments are due Jan. 31, 2003.
DOE, in a related action, will hold an industry workshop in Houston Dec. 12-13 on revising the agency's voluntary greenhouse gas emissions reporting system. White House officials earlier this year said the administration is committed to cutting greenhouse gas intensity by 18% over the next 10 years. Greenhouse gas intensity is the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions to economic output.

Budget challenges
President George W. Bush's proposed budget for fiscal year 2003 provides $4.5 billion for global climate change-related activities. This includes the first year of funding for a 5-year, $4.6 billion commitment for tax credits for renewable energy sources. But whether the new Republican-controlled Congress will support either plan, given looming budget constraints, is an unanswered question.
Lawmakers are still months from finalizing the 2003 federal government budget, which officially began Oct. 1, 2002. In the interim, the government is operating through a temporary spending measure. But when Congress returns in early 2003, the budget calendar is going to get very crowded. Not only will legislators have to pass nearly a dozen delayed appropriations bills, they also will have to start considering the White House's budget request for the 2004 fiscal year.

At a recent American Petroleum Institute conference on climate change, James Connaughton, chairman of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality, said the Bush administration remains committed to the tax credit plan. He told reporters later that the White House continues to consult with oil companies on creating an annual reporting greenhouse gas emissions scheme, although there are as yet no specifics on what the program will look like.
Connaughton told API that policymakers support climate change research, calling it "a critical, high priority." And he affirmed an industry-supported position that the kind of mandatory emissions reductions called for under the Kyoto Protocol are not cost-effective.
"For us, the top priority is economic growth. We don't support Kyoto; it's not realistic."
At the same meeting API members reviewed a compendium of greenhouse gas emissions reporting protocols. Industry officials said they will continue working over the "next few years" to refine and promote a common methodology for estimating emissions.
But for now the group will not follow the lead of chemical companies that recently agreed to voluntarily lower greenhouse gas emissions based on production levels. API officials say that setting an industry-wide reduction target for the petroleum industry presents a unique set of challenges, because various business segments today keep track of their own emissions in different ways.
"Transparency is a key issue, as many of the protocol documents do not provide enough detail to understand the derivation of the emission factors," API said.