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Posted on  

December 5, 2000

Report Outlines Promising Opportunities for Addressing Climate Change

Researchers from five U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories, including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, have issued a major report that finds the United States can make impressive strides toward addressing climate change through smart policies and technologies.

The report, "Scenarios for a Clean Energy Future," assesses technologies and policies to meet energy-related challenges facing the United States. It concludes that successful implementation of these technologies and policies could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, oil dependence and economic inefficiencies. The report also concludes that the overall economic benefits of the policies and technologies that are modeled are comparable to their overall costs. The benefits derive from energy savings throughout the economy.

"While previous studies have established the technical potential for significantly cutting greenhouse gases and enhancing energy security, this study shows the ability of policies to help realize this potential," said Marilyn Brown, deputy director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program.

Hundreds of technologies and 50 policies were analyzed. The most important policies in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions were found to include increased research and development, voluntary agreements to promote energy efficiency in vehicles, buildings and industrial processes, enhanced appliance efficiency standards, a domestic carbon cap and trading system and electric industry restructuring. Some of the policies analyzed are the policies of the current administration while others are not.

Many energy-related challenges are addressed by this report. Global climate change threatens to impose significant long-term costs from increasing temperatures, rising sea levels and more extreme weather. Despite ongoing improvements in air quality, air pollution from burning hydrocarbons continues to cause high levels of respiratory illnesses, acid rain and photochemical smog. Electricity outages, power disturbances and price hikes could dampen U.S. productivity, especially in the rapidly growing digital economy.

A scenario-based approach is used in the report to examine alternative public policies that address these problems. The scenarios were developed through discussions with representatives of business, universities, nonprofit organizations and government to provide a broad range of opinions. This range gives decision-makers and the public an opportunity to study the advantages and disadvantages of different policy choices. The report provides a better understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of different policy choices, but contains no policy recommendations.

The most advanced scenario finds that by the year 2010, the United States could bring its carbon dioxide emissions three-quarters of the way back to 1990 levels. These reductions would come from every sector of the economy. To meet the U.S. Kyoto Protocol goal of reducing greenhouse emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2010, additional measures would be needed. Extra steps could include international carbon trading, reductions in other greenhouse gases and stronger domestic policies.

The report also concludes that over time energy bill savings in these scenarios can pay for the investments needed to achieve the reported reductions in energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions. However, the report also notes that there will be certain negative sectoral impacts.

The report was commissioned by the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Participating in the report are researchers from Argonne National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

For more information contact:
George Douglas, 303-275-4096
email: George Douglas



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