Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Portney, Specker address policy and technology of confronting climate change
“Gore won,” quipped APPA President and CEO Alan H. Richardson in introducing the Tuesday morning session on climate change policy options and technology solutions. Quoting former New York Gov. George Pataki’s shorthand assessment of the politics of climate change, Richardson said the nation clearly needs to set aside debate about whether the earth is warming and develop policies for reducing carbon emissions.
Dr. Paul Portney, dean of the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona, Tucson, and Dr. Steven Specker, president and CEO of the Electric Power Research Institute, shared their views on policies and technologies for addressing climate change.
Portney, an economist who spent many years at Resources for the Future, a Washington, D.C., public policy organization, said the United States needs to begin now to introduce policies that impose a penalty on technologies that emit carbon into the atmosphere. The process should be gradual, he said. A carbon tax would be more practical than a cap-and-trade emissions allowance program, but the latter approach is the more politically viable policy. If the warming trend observed over the last 20 years were to reverse, it would be much easier to repeal a carbon tax than to set aside an emissions allowance trading program, he said.
Utilities can start reducing carbon emissions now by implementing energy efficiency programs, followed by a scale-up of renewable energy resources, Specker said. Expansion of nuclear energy and advanced coal generating technologies also have the potential to make meaningful reductions in carbon emissions and introduction of carbon capture and sequestration could bring about a decline in carbon emissions by 2020, he said. By 2030, greater use of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and distributed energy could further reduce carbon emissions.
It is technically feasible for the electricity sector to get back to 1990 carbon emission levels by 2030, Specker said. It won’t be easy, but it is possible.
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