Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Sources and Sinks. The Inventory estimates all of the anthropogenic – caused by man – sources and sinks of GHG emissions in the U.S.
Two weeks ago yesterday, in an alternative universe, the very first allowance “true-up” was held for companies regulated under the Waxman-Markey climate bill. In that universe, a mandatory cap was placed on U.S. GHG emissions, assuring that 2012 emission were 3 percent lower than that of 2005 emissions.
So how are we doing in reality, without the benefit of the 1,400 page Waxman-Markey legislation?
Well, EPA’s estimates only calculate emissions through 2011, however, emissions in that year were estimated to be 6.9 percent lower than 2005 emissions. And expectation is that 2012 emission will be even lower – all while our economy continues to grow. Emissions per unit of GDP are down – and way down from 1990; and emissions per-capita are down as well. But how are we doing it?
Innovation. The emergence of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies has made the extraction of shale gas more technically feasible and more cost-effective. Power plants of all types – coal, gas, oil and renewables – are operating more efficiently. Manufacturers are producing more, while consuming less energy. And through creative financing mechanisms buildings are being built to be more energy efficient and existing buildings are being retrofitted to use less energy.
I point all this out not to rehash the heated debates that surrounded Waxman-Markey and its predecessor and successor legislative proposals, but simply to suggest that the goals of growth and prosperity are not contrary to those seeking lower emissions and greater sustainability. In order to remain competitive in a global marketplace U.S. businesses, and manufacturers in particular, have to create innovative new processes, use energy more efficiently and operate more sustainability – and that’s exactly what they are doing.
Greg Bertelsen is director of energy and resources policy, National Association of Manufacturers.