Talk about flying under the radar! While the White House and Congress are in gridlock, with the legislative body doing everything they can to ensure that nothing is being done about climate change, a number of provisions that were included in the 2007 Energy and Security Act that was passed during the Bush administration are quietly being used to produce enormous energy savings for the American people.
According to a white paper by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), actions that have already been taken, are planned, or that are now underway, could have a net present value, through 2040, of $2.6 trillion. That’s roughly equivalent to the entire US government tax revenue for the year 2013. It also equates to 34 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide and a reduction of energy consumption equivalent to 3.4 million barrels a day. For comparison purposes, the US has been emitting somewhere between 5 and 6 billion metric tons per year since 1990 and imports roughly 9 million barrels of oil per day. That works out to an annual reduction in emissions exceeding 20%.
These actions are being taken through various Federal agencies including DOE, EPA, Dept. of Agriculture, and Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These include appliance standards (both existing and proposed), vehicle standards (existing and proposed), power plant standard (proposed), and housing policies (existing and proposed). Results are shown for the cumulative estimated savings by 2040 in the table below.
As you can see from the data, the majority of savings come from regulations that have already been issued, primarily the vehicle standards. The
proposed EPA power plant standard will have a comparable level of carbon savings, though the dollars saved by the existing appliance standards will be higher, especially if proposed regulations are adapted. It’s important to note that these are net cost savings, take after the cost of implementation has been subtracted off.
These numbers give a glimpse into how much opportunity there is to save energy and cost in our economy today. The cost savings shown here are so enormous that they really put the lie to the idea that we can’t afford to do anything about climate change. It shows that not taking action, is not nly reckless, it’s also foolish. IF this much can be accomplished with a gridlocked Congress, just imagine how much could be done if the folks in Washington were actually working together to try and make things better.
But, lest you think that all this good news means that the job is done, think again. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere grew more between 2012-3 than in any year since 1984. That puts us at 396 ppm with a rate of growth that is estimated (by some scientists) to hit a level that will cross the two degree Celsius threshold in only three more years. That two-degree point is a mark that most scientists agree that we should make every effort to stay below. In order to achieve that, we need to begin reducing our emissions immediately. Instead, they are increasing faster than ever. So we need all these actions, and many more if we expect to minimize the impacts of what is already taking place.