Whether you believe the EPA’s carbon standards will have a positive impact on this country’s economy or a negative one, it’s hard to deny the environmental benefits they will cause. The EPA announced earlier this month they were investing effort into reducing pollution from coal-fired power plants. These rules are new, but the laws are not—due to political pressure, the Obama administration has chosen to create the rules and enforce the law.
The new carbon rules, which the EPA unveiled on Monday, June 2nd, are directly modeled after the success of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is a market-based regulatory program in the North East to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector. All New England states participate, along with New York, Delaware and Maryland. RGGI, the first program of its kind in the United States, auctions carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances, also known as carbon credits. A carbon credit is a term for a tradable certificate or permit representing the right to emit one ton of CO2 or other greenhouse gas equivalent to one ton of CO2. Proceeds from auctions benefit energy efficiency programs in the region, for example, a great partner of ours, Efficiency Maine.
Last Friday, June 6th, was an important day for Maine’s growing green economy. Over 200 people gathered with Senator Angus King to celebrate Maine’s Climate progress and the new EPA carbon standards. Joining Senator King were Maine business and community leaders, the Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Bob Perciasepe, Economist Charlie Colgan and others.
Senator King impressed upon attendees that, “Countless scientific reports have sounded the alarm on global warming, and right here in Maine we continue to see the impacts every day. The facts are simply undeniable: climate change is real, it’s caused by humans, and it poses a significant threat to public health and to our state’s and the nation’s economic livelihood.”
Climate change is a severe threat to Maine’s economy, and as Charlie Colgan explained, the EPA regulations are important to Maine for myriad reasons; Colgan states, “[The proposed EPA regulations] would reduce Maine’s electricity price disadvantage compared with other parts of the U.S., enhancing our economy’s competitiveness […] Maine and New England are very well prepared to meet the new regulations quickly and efficiently because we helped design the model for the national policy […] climate change is a clear and present danger for Maine that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible.” As the easternmost state, we’re particularly vulnerable to carbon pollution. Bar Harbor, for example, has some of the highest recorded concentrations of ozone, due to pollution piggybacking on the jet stream.
It’s been a long time coming, but finally, climate change has been acknowledged by all political parties. Even the Pentagon recognizes climate change as a national security threat, along with many businesses including General Electric, Wal-Mart, and Nike. Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream are supporters of reducing greenhouse gases, as they, “know how messy things get when they melt.” Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the EPA, says of the new standards, “This is not about disappearing polar bears or melting ice caps. It’s about protecting our health and our homes. This is about protecting local economies and jobs.”
An additional 565 gigatons of CO2 is an approximate 20% increase of current levels, which will result in a 2°C (3.6°F) rise in the average global temperature. At that point, we’ll have significant and irreversible planetary damage. Both ice caps will have melted, elevating the sea level and widespread drought will lead to famine, animal extinction and widespread human despair. Alarmingly, publicly traded global energy companies currently report 2,795 gigatons of CO2 in their balance sheets—five times more than the disaster limit.
Implementation of a national carbon credit system would effectively determine who wants to pay to pollute. For example, General Motors has recently purchased $500,000.00 worth of carbon credits from the University of Illinois, and since 2010, they have reduced 7.7 million tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere. They purchase the credits so they are no longer on the market and to minimize their carbon footprint as well.
In an effort to burn cleaner fuel and save money, we’ve seen a rush to convert to natural gas over the last year. Due to limited pipeline availability and demand from Europe, prices and shortages are on the rise. Though the U. S. does not currently export natural gas, the US Energy Department has begun issuing permits to American companies to export, starting in 2015. Six out of twenty one applications to build port facilities in the US to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) have been approved. Currently US natural gas prices are one-third the cost what they are in Europe. The “landed” price for LNG in Europe will still be roughly 50% cheaper than Russian gas, improving their economic and political security.
There are a multitude of steps that can be taken to shrink your carbon footprint that won’t significantly impact your daily life, and a lot of them start with your HVAC system. If you’re unable to completely replace your equipment, make sure the system you currently have in place is maintained by a professional. In Energy Star’s guide to energy efficient heating and cooling, they express the importance of system maintenance. They go on to say that the average household spends more than $2,200 annually on energy bills, and the typical commercial building spends 40% of its energy on HVAC, and the other 20% on lighting.
Sadly, we find that less than 1 out of 20 buildings maintain their systems to the minimum industry consensus standards. Worse is that those non-compliant buildings usually perform less than 25% of the minimum preventive maintenance tasks, and resort to “belts and filters” approach.
Give the Experts a call at 1 (800) 649-4197. We’ll keep your system running at industry standards, and help reduce your greenhouse emissions.
Dan Thayer, P. E.
President, Thayer Corporation