A reducing plan


Courtesy morguefile


By Bill Brainerd

When a state needs to inventory its greenhouse gases (GHSs) and reduce them in an effort to attack climate change, it most often focuses on electricity generation and transportation.

For example, beginning in 2000, six New England governors came together in an effort to reduce Greenhouse Gases. Later, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), including Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire agreed to stabilize carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing electricity plants by 2009, and to reduce them ten percent by 2019.

The Initiative sets a cap on total carbon dioxide emissions from all member states, allowing each a share of the cap roughly proportional to its present emissions.  The state then divides its allowance among its plants.  A plant that exceeds its cap is subject to enforcement by the state environmental agency. 

Trading of allowances are permitted.  When a plant can't economically cut its emissions it may offset half the cut by, for example, funding capture of landfill gas or methane from animal operations. 

Pennsylvania, at present, is not a member of the Initiative. It is, however, part of a program in which at least 23 states have passed renewable portfolio standards.

Typically these standards require utilities to generate a fraction of their electricity from renewable sources like wind, solar, or geothermal, and another fraction from less benign, but still environmentally beneficial sources like large hydro, waste coal, biomass, and landfill or coal mine methane.  For Pennsylvania, these fractions are eight percent from renewable sources and ten percent from other sources.

Many states offer financial incentives for energy efficiency and clean power. 
A majority offer a tax credit or exemption for purchase of renewable equipment.  Thirteen states have public benefit funds to subsidize public education, offer rebates, or make research grants.  In Arizona and New Jersey, for instance, the money comes from a tax on electric bills or on utilities.  For Pennsylvania, Governor Rendell has proposed a surcharge of 45 cents per month on home electric bills. 

Pennsylvania buys 20 percent of its electricity from renewables, and its Office of Energy and Technology Deployment offers grants for such things as purchase of a hybrid car, or for research on various types of ethanol, coal mine methane, or micro-hydro generators. 

Although automobile emissions are said to cause a third of global warming, states generally have done less to reduce greenhouse gases from vehicles. Philadelphia, however, has passed an anti-idling law, but few legislators talk of raising the gas tax, taxing gas guzzlers or miles driven, or cutting speed limits. In Pennsylvania, however, Governor Rendell has proposed raising the Oil Company Franchise Tax.
California’s AB 1493 of 2002, directs the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to require the maximum feasible, cost-effective greenhouse gas reductions from vehicles starting in 2009.  Pennsylvania is one of nine other states to have adopted CARB regulations.

Two other efforts to control total greenhouse gases—not just those from power plants or vehicles—are California’s recent AB 32, which gives CARB the power to prepare and enforce a plan to cut that state’s total GHG 25 percent by 2020, which is the highest in the Nation; and The Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), a consortium of states, cities and corporations that report and gain credit for their reductions of six greenhouse gases. While compliance is voluntary, CCX members pledge a six percent reduction by 2010.

Pennsylvania’s Inventory of GHG Emissions

The inventory below uses EPA methodology to estimate 1999 emissions. Figures are a percent of total 1999 emissions of 79.79 million metric tons of carbon equivalent:

Source of Greenhouse Gas Emission (GHG)

% of GHG emissions from source

CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels. Percentages from primary sources are listed below.

Power plants: 36.2
Transportation: 23.4
Industrial: 18.7
Commercial: 4.1
Residential: 8.0





GHGs from nonenergy industrial processes like manufacture of cement, HFCs, PFCs



Methane from coal mining, oil and gas drilling



Methane from domestic animals and manure management



GHGs from municipal waste management


Methane and nitrous oxide from mobile combustion


Carbon dioxide from forestry and land use change  (net GHG reduction)




Total Emissions


Bill Brainerd is a member of the Southeastern Group and serves as Chapter secretrary.


Published March 2007