Energy and climate legislation in Washington? On the hill today, this question will leave you with crickets and dropping pens. And, in the latest blow to energy and climate since Republicans captured the majority in the House of Representatives, the White House Energy and Climate Change advisor is leaving her post.
The NY Times reported today that Carol Browner, the White House Advisor for Energy and Climate Change will be leaving her position soon. Browner will step down from her post without achieving her goal of ushering comprehensive energy and climate legislation. Does this mean that hope for federal action on this issue is gone until 2013?
Browner was chosen in 2009 to lead the newly minted White House Office of Energy and Climate Change. The former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the Clinton Administration, Browner came to the advisory position with many years of experience in DC. It was believed that this experience would help her usher in the charge in DC toward passing comprehensive federal energy and climate legislation.
But, Browner will be leaving Washington with a stalled bill in the Senate and little hope on the horizon that this legislation will pass the President’s desk. It appears that regulating greenhouse gases is a big task for a divided congress in the 112th session.
The United States emits the same amount of greenhouse gases as 69 other countries – 300 million people emitting the same as 1.5 billion. Since the U.S. uses about 20% of the world’s total energy consumption, this doesn’t come as a big surprise. But, it brings to light a big problem on the horizon. As developing countries continue to increase their energy use – electrifying their homes and businesses, travelling more in newly purchased cars, and producing more goods – is it possible for them to increase their standard of living without a dramatic increase in energy consumption?
What does this mean for the world’s energy use?
Today, the average person in the United States uses about 330 million BTUs (british thermal units) of energy each year. The world’s average is just 75 million. If the world increased its energy use to the current US level, the world’s total annual energy use would more than quadruple – from its current 500 to more than 2,200 Quadrillion BTUs (this assumes that the world’s population does not increase.
The same story goes for the United States versus other countries on its environmental impacts from energy use. The United States uses more energy per capita and it also emits more carbon dioxide than any other country (per capita – China emits more greenhouse gases in total, but they have a much larger population). It is reasonable to say that an increase in energy use would in an increase in greenhouse emissions from these countries.
To get an idea of the scale, I took a look at a new map published on the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) website. This map shows what the US would look like if you redrew the state boundaries based on the greenhouse gas emissions of other countries. According to the NRDC, you could fit the emissions 16 countries + the entire African continent (which, if my counting skills are on-par today, includes 53 countries) into the United State’s footprint.
These countries includes the Philipines, Sweden, France, Morocco, Israel, Thailand, Argentina, India (filling Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mississippi), Brazil, Africa (with its 53 countries), the United Kingdom, Germany, Jordan, Ireland, Malaysia, Norway, and Ecuador.
All told – this map shows that the 300 million people in the United States emit the same amount of carbon dioxide as the 1.5 billion people living in these 69 countries.
As the world continues to electrify its homes, put new cars on the road, and produce more goods in industrial facilities I wonder how the world will deal with the increase in greenhouse gas emissions….
Thanks to The Daily Wogan for introducing me to this NRDC chart.
Yesterday, my blog post was on the EPA’s work in developing a structure under which they can regulate large stationary emitters of greenhouse gases. This work could provide an alternative method of reducing these emissions if congress is unable to pass proposed carbon cap and trade legislation into law. The EPA has recently issued their proposed rule for regulating greenhouse gas emissions and several congressmen are striking back. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, is co-sponsoring a resolution with Senator Lindsey Graham (R- South Carolina) that would tie the EPA’s hands (at least for a while) by disapproving their finding that greenhouse gases are a threat to human health and welfare. The resolution is expected to be voted on in 2-3 weeks. The resolution’s co-sponsor is the same Senator Graham who worked with Senators Kerry and Lieberman on developing the Senate’s current energy and climate bill proposal, titled the American Power Act, only to step away from the table just before its reveal. According to Senator Graham, many of the supporters of this resolution believe that we need federal regulations to reduction greenhouse gas emissions. However, they believe that this type of regulation should come from Congress and not from the EPA.