Hollywood and the media are way ahead of the politicians when it comes to the greenhouse effect and global warming. But even as utilities try to be good corporate citizens and help devise a...
Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
As a frequent contributor to your influential journal, which is, indeed, in the "Frontlines" of efforts to improve the U.S. energy and power infrastructure, I was especially interested in your February 2005 issue. The article by Sanne B. Jacobsen, Neil J. Numark, and Paloma Sarria titled "A Changing U.S. Climate" (pp. 25-33) is surprisingly balanced.
But as an advocate of the development and commercialization of emission-free sustainable energy sources that will replace fossil fuels with sufficient lead time to avoid damage to the economy and, in fact, allow continued improvement in human well-being through growing energy abundance, I was disappointed that the authors failed to cite the December 2004 report by the National Commission on Energy Policy titled (available at ). Rather than a jumble of mandatory and voluntary state, regional actions, and individual company initiatives to reduce the emissions of the major anthropogenic greenhouse gases, it proposes a mandatory reduction of greenhouse-gas intensity in metric ton of CO2 equivalents of 2.4 percent/year of the gross domestic product across the entire economy by 2010, with an economy-wide tradable permit system costing $7/metric ton of CO 2 equivalent. All prices and costs are in constant 2004 dollars. Note that the qualification "anthropogenic" greenhouse gases is necessary since only about 4 percent of the 200 billion metric ton (gigatonnes) annual carbon cycle (as CO 2) among the atmosphere, the ocean, and the terrestrial sources and sinks comes from human activities, and half of this is naturally sequestered.
The Bush administration has called for a voluntary declining intensity cap of 1.8 percent/year. The commission also recommends major increases in federal R,D&D programs and industry subsidies such as $7 billion over 10 years for advanced coal technologies allowing carbon sequestration and $2 billion for nuclear power research and deployment. Part of the $7 billion subsidy would be for early deployment incentives of integrated coal gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) plants. The remainder would be for public incentives to demonstrate commercial-scale carbon capture and geologic sequestration at a variety of sites. Similar incentives are recommended for nearly every major energy technology, including a $1.5 billion program over 10 years to increase domestic production of advanced non-petroleum transportation fuels from biomass and waste.
The findings and recommendations of the National Commission on Energy Policy summarized by Jeff Johnson (, Jan. 5, 2005, pp. 32-33) cites commission estimates that its program would cost $36 billion over 10 years. However, the commission emphasizes that its strategy would be revenue neutral because the government would recover these investments through the economy-wide tradable permit system costing $7/metric ton of CO 2-equivalent. These CO 2 equivalents are listed in the National Commission report.
These recommendations are, in my opinion, far preferable to the jumble of state and regional initiatives mainly on the Kyoto Protocol model that set a specific, usually CO 2-equivalent reduction target over a limited number of years without consideration of whether this reduction is feasible technically and economically. Even worse are the initiatives that specify mandatory percentages of carbon-emission-free technologies, such as