Friday, May 22, 2009

Reducing the Carbon Footprint with Cap and Trade Legislation

The "American Clean Energy and Security Act" is HR 2454, it is also known as the Waxman-Markley energy bill, or simply as "ACES." The Bill includes a cap-and-trade global warming reduction plan designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. The current goal is a reduction of 17% by 2020. Other provisions include new renewable energy requirements for utilities, studies and incentives for carbon capture technologies, energy efficiency incentives for home and buildings, and grants for green jobs. The bill is expected to be on the House floor in June.
The Congressional Budget Office analysis estimated that price increases associated with a 15% cut in carbon dioxide emissions would cost the average U.S. household $1,600.00 a year. This weekend the World Business Summit on Climate Change will meet in Copenhagen. Bjorn Lomborg, in his opinion piece in the WSJ discusses the cost of green jobs in Spain as well as his opinion of the "Climate-Industrial Complex." (A lovely turn of phrase.) It is difficult to determine the cost benefit analysis of ACES since the exact relationship of man made greenhouse gas reduction and climate change is not known. It is evident, however; that reducing greenhouse gas emissions or any other custodial care of our planet takes resources: money, time, energy and passion. Spend to care for the earth and its atmosphere and there will be less for other things. We as a whole will be poorer, but hopefully with a more sustainable earth. We need to spend wisely to get the most effect from our resources and efforts.
A cap and trade system will cost the American consumer more for power, transportation and many goods. There will be profits to be made in a cap and trade system, who will hold the profits and who will bear the costs remains to be seen. Hopefully, the unintended consequences will not overwhelm the goals of the bill.
I do see the first glimmers of green jobs. This month in CEP (Chemical Engineering Progress) was a very helpful and inspiring article by Jeffrey H. Siegell titled "Improve Your Air Emissions Estimates." With the apparent goal to properly estimate the baseline, Mr. Siegell identified several problem areas in typical reporting estimates. I love system mass balance, waste stream sampling, release modeling-all of it. Though I have not modeled a processing plant since my US EPA and DuPont days, I think there will be great opportunities in systems emissions modeling.

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