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The Key to California's Coal Future

Fortnightly Magazine - April 2006

built in the state offset part of their carbon-dioxide emissions. The new power plants provide funding to The Climate Trust, which uses the money to acquire project-based emissions reductions. Technologies include wind energy, multifamily weatherization and new green buildings; cogeneration; traffic signal optimization; truck stop electrification; industrial efficiency; low-carbon blended cement; and permanent forest sequestration.

So far, more than 1.7 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide emissions have been mitigated at a cost of around $5 million, and an additional $6 million will be invested in high profile projects in 2006. Most of this funding has come from Portland General Electric, Calpine, Avista, PPM Energy, and NW Natural under the Oregon siting law. However, funding increasingly is coming from power companies (American National Power in Massachusetts, Basin Creek Power in Montana) and other companies, such as Nike.

Project-based reductions are a high-quality, effective means of mitigating greenhouse-gas emissions, and they allow society to address climate change at the lowest overall cost, leaving more money to spend on other things, such as food, health, education, and security. These reductions can drive funding toward innovative technology and into economic sectors that may be bypassed by other strategies. They can create jobs; help people and businesses save money on energy; enhance energy security by reducing fossil imports; stimulate economic development by creating demand for clean energy products; and provide environmental co-benefits. These environmental co-benefits include reducing local air pollution; preserving habitat, biodiversity, and endangered species; improving watersheds and water quality; and reducing soil erosion. These reductions also can be useful in addressing environmental justice concerns.

California and other states can draw from the above experiences in project-based reductions. It is important to develop detailed and transparent protocols for determining project eligibility and quantifying reductions. The development of specific protocols for a range of project types will allow the delivery of high-quality, project-based reductions in a volume sufficient for a significant impact on the pulse of coal-based emissions that is challenging California’s energy policymakers.


1. Milford, Jana, et. al.: “Clearing California’s Coal Shadow from the American West”; Environmental Defense; 2005, p. vii.

2. CAL EPA Climate Action Team Report to the Governor and the Legislature, Dec. 8 2005. p. v.

4. Source: California Energy Commission.

4. Milford, Jana, et. al., p. vii.

5. Ibid., p.10.

6. EIA 2005 Energy Outlook.

7. California Energy Commission, 2005 Integrated Energy Policy Report, Committee Draft Report, Publication 100-2005-007-CTD, September 2005, p. 71; Memorandum from Chairman Desmond, IEPR Greenhouse Gas Performance Standard, Sept. 22, 2005, p. 6.