GHG Reductions: Who is the Leader?

On March 29, 2010, a document was released by the American Petroleum Institute (API) claiming that “U.S. based oil and gas industry sources report reductions of greenhouse gas emissions totaling 48.3 million metric tons CO2 equivalent from 2007 to 2008”.  In the document, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions was considered equivalent to the estimated reduction of greenhouse gas emission from removing “9.7 million cars off the road”!  The United States Department of Transportation estimated that the number of registered vehicles in the United States in 2007 was 254,403,082.  Therefore, 9.7 million cars are approximately equal to 4% of the registered vehicles in the United States.  But, was the oil and gas industry’s reduction of greenhouse emissions attributable entirely to their investments in carbon mitigation technologies?

The document compiled by T2 and Associates stated that the majority of the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions resulted from low-carbon technology investments from 2000 to 2008, which totaled about $58 billion.  It is worth noting that over the eight-year period the oil and gas industry invested more in carbon mitigation technologies than both other private industries and the federal government.  The federal government invested only $19.2 billion or about 33% of the investment made by the oil and gas industry.  As evident from the investment statistics, the oil and gas industry as well as other private industries have been more proactive about addressing greenhouse gas emissions than the federal government.  The oil and gas industry recognized the need to take initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and has since played a leading role in the efforts.  When will the federal government follow suit and enact legislation that would regulate greenhouse gas emissions?

While a direct correlation existed between the investments in carbon mitigation technologies and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, other factors have also had an effect on the reported decline in greenhouse gas emissions such as the economic downturn.  T2 and Associates divided the reduction of greenhouse gas emission into three categories: (1) reductions due to “fuel substitution” technologies, (2) reductions due to “non-hydrocarbon” technologies, and (3) reductions due to “end use” technologies.  Fuel switching from coal to natural gas for use in burners contributed to 46% of the reported reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (Tanton, 2010) due to the relative carbon intensities of the two fuels.  Coal emits ~26 MMT of carbon per Quad whereas natural gas emits ~14 MMT of carbon per Quad (Webber, 2010).  Increased renewable energy use by the oil and gas industry and refinery efficiency improvements accounted for the remaining 54% of the reported reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

While the oil and gas industry continues to lead the way in the efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the federal government continues to debate the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change.  Will this trend continue into the foreseeable future or will the Obama Administration be successful at inducing change?  In my opinion, federal government legislation that would regulate greenhouse gas emissions is necessary to induce a global response aimed to combat climate change.  Unless the United States becomes the leader in fighting climate change as opposed to private industries it will be difficult to stimulate other top emitting nations such as China and India to take action.

References:

[1] Bureau of Transportation Statistics. (n.d.). Table 1-11: Number of U.S. Aircraft, Vehicles, Vessels, and Other Conveyances [Data file]. Retrieved from http://www.bts.gov/‌publications/‌national_transportation_statistics/‌html/‌table_01_11.html

[2] Tanton, T. (2010, March). Emission Reductions Associated with U.S. Oil and Gas Industry Improvements in Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Technologies. Retrieved from T2 and Associates website: http://www.api.org/‌Newsroom/‌upload/‌T2_ghg_reduction_report_2010-3-22.pdf

[3] Webber, M. E. (2010, March 30). Energy and the Environment. Lecture presented at The University of Texas at Austin.

[4] Webber, M. E. (2010, April 1). Climate Change. Lecture presented at The University of Texas at Austin.

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1 Comment

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One response to “GHG Reductions: Who is the Leader?

  1. bjjmark95

    The political battle that is the climate change issue and how we should attack it is scary to say the least. The problem is that most of the people who are making, or trying to make I should say, the decisions are not educated well enough in the subject. Unfortunately, the major problem is that even the “experts” on global warming and climate change do not know enough on the subject either to make a valid decision. Many climate change experts across the globe are indecisive as to the ability of current science to accurately predict future climate change. In a study done in 2003 by two German scientists, Dennis Bray and Hand von Storch, when 520 top climate scientists from around the world were asked if current climate models could predict future climates, 55% disagreed with only 30% agreeing and 15% uncertain (Shuster, pg. 71). With such inability to predict what will actually happen in the future, how can we create policy around so many unknowns? Though climate scientists are in disagreement across the board, global warming is only the symptom, if true, to the underlying illness that is our dependence on fossil fuels. When politicians get off the climate change issue and actually attack the true issue, will we see actual progress be made.

    Sources:
    Shuster, J. M. (2008). Beyond Fossil Fools: The Road Map to Energy Independence by 2040. Edina, MN: Beaver’s Pond Press.

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