Federal

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions seeks to inform the design and implementation of federal policies that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Drawing from its extensive peer-reviewed published works, in-house policy analyses, and tracking of current legislative proposals, the Center provides research, analysis, and recommendations to policymakers in Congress and the Executive Branch. Read More
 

Policy Considerations for Emerging Carbon Programs

Policy Considerations for Emerging Carbon Programs

June 2016

Download the Fact Sheet (PDF)

With climate action gaining momentum around the country, policymakers at the city, state, and federal level are all considering policy tools they can use to achieve their goals. Many market-based options exist that can deliver differing co-benefits. Discussions and collaboration with other jurisdictions and with affected businesses can also improve the policy outcome.

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Innovation to Power the Nation (and the World): Reinventing our Climate Future

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 
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1:00-3:00 p.m.Carnegie Institution for Science Auditorium 1530 P St. NW Washington , DC 20005Watch video of the event  

Innovation is an essential component to meet the challenges of climate change. Better ways to produce, store, conserve, and transmit energy will help the U.S. and other nations meet the ambitious goals set at the United Nations climate change conference held in Paris in December 2015.

Join the Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Michelle K. Lee, and a panel of technology, energy, and climate experts for a discussion on how present and future innovation can change the course of our planet’s future. Questions to explore will include:

  • What do we need do more, do differently, do faster, to change course and evolve our energy system to be clean, efficient, accessible, dependable and low-carbon?
  • Where do we need breakthroughs in technology to really make a difference?
  • What policies would help drive the innovation we need? What business model innovation is needed?

June 29, 2016
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.

Carnegie Institution for Science Auditorium
1530 P St. NW Washington , DC 20005

Watch video of the event

 

Keynote Address

Hon. Michelle K. Lee
Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office
 
Panelists

Dr. B. Jayant Baliga
Director, Power Semiconductor Research Center, North Carolina State University
National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee, 2016, Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor
 

Nate Hurst
Chief Sustainability & Social Impact Officer, HP

Dr. Kristina Johnson
Chief Executive Officer, Cube Hydro Partners   National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee, 2015, Polarization Control Technology

Bob Perciasepe
President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

Moderator: Amy Harder
Energy Reporter, The Wall Street Journal
 

See full bios of speakers

 

Reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector

Federal agencies are pursuing regulatory and voluntary steps to reduce methane emissions from the oil and natural gas production system, the largest manmade source of this potent greenhouse gas.

On January 14, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40–45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.

As part of achieving this goal, EPA adopted regulations on May 12, 2016, for new and modified sources of methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector.  This builds on the agency’s 2012 rule for new source performance standards (NSPS) and hazardous air pollutant regulations for oil and gas production and gas processing, transmission and storage facilities.

Separately, the Department of the Interior (DOI) has proposed its own regulations to be finalized in 2016 to reduce methane emissions from certain wells.
EPA also plans to work collaboratively with industry and states, including expanding its voluntary Natural Gas Star program, to reduce methane from existing oil and gas operations.

Steps to reduce methane from other sources, such as landfills and coal mines, are also part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

What is methane?

Methane, or CH4, is the main component of natural gas. When combusted as fuel, natural gas produces half as much carbon dioxide emissions as coal, and one-third less than oil (per unit of energy produced). However, natural gas that is released into the atmosphere without being combusted is a potent greenhouse gas.

Why is it important to reduce methane emissions?

Methane is the second biggest driver of climate change. It is much more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) at increasing the atmosphere’s heat-trapping ability, but it remains in the atmosphere a much shorter time (a little more than a decade compared with hundreds of years for CO2).

Averaged over a 100-year time frame, the warming potential of methane is about 21 times stronger than that of CO2. However, in a 20-year time frame, it is 72 times more potent. (The most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change raises estimates of the global warming potential of methane to 34 times stronger than CO2 for the 100-year time frame, and 86 times stronger for the 20-year time frame. However, the earlier estimates are still used to maintain comparability among U.S. greenhouse gas inventory reports.)
Because methane is potent and short-lived, reducing methane emissions can have a more immediate benefit, and is especially important at a time of growing U.S. oil and natural gas production.

What are the primary sources of methane emissions in the United States?

Natural gas and petroleum systems are the largest emitters of methane in the U.S., according to EPA estimates. These emissions come from intentional and unintentional releases.

Agriculture, solid waste landfills, and coal mines are also major sources and are addressed by other EPA programs.

Figure 1: 2014 U.S. Methane Emissions, By Source

In 2014, U.S. methane emissions totaled 731 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2013” (Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2015), http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/usinventoryreport.html.

How much methane is released in oil and natural gas production and how will EPA improve the accuracy of measurements?

Methane is released unintentionally and intentionally from oil and gas systems. According to EPA, natural gas and petroleum systems were responsible for nearly one-third of methane emissions in 2014. The rate of methane emissions from the sector has decreased in recent years, even as natural gas production has surged.

However, independent studies estimate a wide range of leak rates from natural gas production, from 0.71 to 7.9 percent. More comprehensive studies are needed for accurate results.

EPA has committed to examining options for applying remote sensing and other technologies to improve methane emissions data accuracy and transparency, and strengthening reporting requirements for methane in its Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.

Why is methane intentionally released?

In the production process, small amounts of methane can leak unintentionally. In addition, methane may be intentionally released or vented to the atmosphere for safety reasons at the wellhead or to reduce pressure from equipment or pipelines.

How does EPA address methane emissions from new oil and natural gas wells?

EPA adopted a rule in May 2016 under Section 111(b) of the Clean Air Act. It requires operators of new oil and gas wells to find and repair leaks, capture natural gas from the completion of hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells, limit emissions from new and modified pneumatic pumps, and limit emissions from several types of equipment used at natural gas transmission compressor stations, including compressors and pneumatic controllers. EPA estimates that this rule could prevent the emission of 510,000 short tons of methane in 2025, which is the equivalent of 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

EPA already regulates Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs, which are ozone-forming pollutants) from new oil and gas production sources, which has the side benefit of also reducing methane. The new rule is also expected to reduce other pollutants, including 210,000 tons of VOCs and 3,900 tons of air toxics in 2025.In addition, on January 22, 2016, the Department of the Interior proposed a Methane Waste and Reduction Rule to reduce methane emissions from all wells on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Indian lands.

The proposal from DOI will update rules and require oil and gas producers to reduce methane emissions from operations. It proposes the first-ever limits for flaring of natural gas as well as increased disclosure requirements. The DOI proposal would prohibit venting except in specified circumstances, require pre-drill planning for leak reduction, and increased use of leak-detection technology.

What entities will be covered by the regulations?

The EPA rule covers new and modified oil and gas production sources, and natural gas processing and transmission sources. EPA seeks to reduce emissions from five specific sources:

  • natural gas well completion
  • oil well completions
  • gathering and boosting stations
  • natural gas processing plants
  • natural gas compressor stations

In developing new standards, EPA focused on in-use technologies, current industry practices, emerging innovations and streamlined and flexible regulatory approaches to ensure that emissions reductions can be achieved as oil and gas production and operations continue to grow.

The DOI proposal would affect all oil and gas wells on federally owned onshore lands, amounting to 100,000 wells responsible for 5 percent of US oil supply and 11 percent of gas supply.

How do EPA’s methane actions complement existing regulation?

The actions work with EPA’s new source performance standards (NSPS) and hazardous air pollutant regulations, finalized in 2012. They already apply to oil and gas production and gas processing, transmission, and storage facilities, and the 2016 rule applies them directly to methane as well.

While primarily aimed at reducing smog-forming and toxic air pollutants, known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the NSPS rules also had the indirect effect of reducing methane emissions. They include the requirement to use "green completions" at natural gas wells to limit emissions from hydraulic fracturing, a rapidly growing means of drilling and production. In a “green completion,” special equipment separates hydrocarbons from the used hydraulic fracturing fluid, or flowback, that comes back up from the well as it is being prepared for production. This step allows for the collection (and sale or use) of methane that may be mixed with the flowback and would otherwise be released to the atmosphere. Because the same technologies in place to reduce VOC emissions would also be used to reduce methane, no additional steps would be necessary to reduce methane.

In its January 2015 announcement, EPA said it will develop new guidelines to assist states in reducing VOCs from existing oil and gas systems in areas that do not meet the ozone health standard and in states in the Ozone Transport Region. Like the earlier NSPS, these guidelines will also reduce methane emissions.
The final regulation issued in May 2016 will extend emission reductions further downstream from the 2012 rules and cover certain equipment used in the natural gas transmission sector in addition to equipment covered by regulation in 2012.

How does EPA propose to address methane emissions from existing oil and gas wells?

On March 10, 2016, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a joint statement including several actions to reduce methane emissions from existing oil and gas wells. EPA announced it would immediately begin developing regulations for existing oil and gas wells and would, in April 2016, begin the formal process to require companies operating methane emissions sources to provide information to assist in development of standards to decrease those emissions.

On May 12, 2016, EPA issued a draft information collection request (ICR) that would require oil and gas companies to provide extensive information needed to reduce methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources. This will help EPA identify the most significant sources of emissions, the kinds of technologies that work best to reduce them, and how those technologies can be applied effectively. In addition, EPA plans to issue a voluntary request for information on innovative strategies to accurately and cost-effectively locate, measure and reduce methane emissions.

Canada intends to publish an initial phase of proposed regulations of methane from new and existing oil and gas wells by early 2017.

The countries committed to work collaboratively to improve methane data collection and emissions quantification, and transparency of emissions reporting in North America, and share knowledge of cost-effective methane reduction technologies and practices. They also agreed to jointly endorse the World Bank’s Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 Initiative, and report annually on progress.  

What other non-regulatory steps has the administration announced it will take?

The president requested in his fiscal year 2017 budget proposal $15 million for the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop and demonstrate more cost-effective technologies to detect and reduce losses from natural gas transmission and distribution systems, including leak repairs, and developing next-generation compressors. The president’s budget also proposes $10 million to launch a program at DOE to enhance the quantification of emissions from natural gas infrastructure for inclusion in the national Greenhouse Gas Inventory in coordination with EPA. Congress must appropriate funding for these programs for them to be implemented. DOE will also be responsible for other recommendations to reduce emissions from the natural gas system.

US can reach its Paris Agreement goal

After witnessing the historic signing of the Paris Agreement by 175 nations, we now need to turn our attention to fulfilling its promise.

As its nationally determined contribution to the agreement, the United States set a goal of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. In a new paper, C2ES outlines how expected and in-place policies could get us close to the goal line -- reducing emissions by as much as 22 percent. Getting the rest of the way can likely be achieved through a mix of additional policies, city and business action, and technological innovation.

The chart above illustrates how U.S. emissions can be reduced almost 22 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The rest of the gap with the INDC submitted for the Paris Agreement can be achieved through a mix of additional policies, city and business action, and technological innovation.

First, let’s look at how we can get to a 22 percent reduction.

U.S. net emissions are already down more than 9 percent from 2005 levels due to market- and policy-related factors, including a shift in electricity generation from coal to natural gas, growth in renewable energy, level electricity demand, and improved vehicle efficiency.

The C2ES business-as-usual forecast, drawn from a number of analyses, projects an additional 5.6 percent reduction in net emissions through such policies as greenhouse gas standards for vehicles and the Clean Power Plan.

The rest of the anticipated emissions reductions is expected to come from new, higher estimates of future carbon sequestration and additional measures under development, including steps to strengthen fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, and reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Now, how will we address the remaining gap of at least 270 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent?

Additional federal policies would help. For example, greenhouse gas standards could be set for major industrial sectors under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, the same section that underlies the Clean Power Plan.

Technological advances that lower the cost of emissions reduction will also undoubtedly play an important role. Over the next five to 10 years, battery storage technologies are expected to improve by a factor of 10, which would support the integration of more renewable generation. A promising design for a natural gas power plant with nearly 100 percent carbon capture will enter the demonstration phase next year and could be commercialized soon after. And agricultural advances are leading to more sustainable crops able to sequester more carbon dioxide in their root systems.

Stronger efforts by cities will also be critical to filling the gap. A growing number of cities are working to improve the energy efficiency of residential and commercial buildings, which account for for 41 percent of total U.S. energy consumption. Greater adoption of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs, which help finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, could significantly reduce city energy demand. Similarly, city programs to build out infrastructure to increase the adoption rate of electric vehicles will, in-time, appreciably lower transportation-related emissions.

Companies, too, will play a key role. Twelve leading companies signed the C2ES statement calling on governments to quickly join the Paris climate pact and pledging to work with countries toward the domestic measures needed to achieve their national emissions-cutting contributions. More than 150 U.S. companies with a combined market capitalization in excess of $7 trillion joined the American Business Act on Climate Pledge – committing to reduce emissions, increase renewable power, or finance climate efforts. And the White House is calling on more companies to join the initiative.

The United States has significantly reduced its greenhouse gas emissions over the past decade. Cutting emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 is a challenging goal. But many options remain untapped, and concerted efforts across multiple fronts can get us across the goal line.

U.S. can reach Paris Agreement climate goal; more needed

U.S. can reach Paris Agreement climate goal, but more will be needed

New analysis breaks down estimates of future emissions reductions

WASHINGTON – Existing and expected policies can take the United States most of the way toward its Paris Agreement goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the remaining reductions can likely be achieved through a mix of additional policies, city and business action, and technological innovation, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES).

As part of the landmark global climate agreement to be signed Friday by more than 150 nations, the United States set a goal of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. In a new paper, C2ES outlines how expected and in-place policies could reduce U.S. emissions by as much as 22 percent.

“To get all the way to the goal line, we’ll need concerted efforts across multiple fronts. But the goal is definitely within reach,’’ said C2ES President Bob Perciasepe.

U.S. net emissions are already down about 9 percent from 2005 levels due to market- and policy-related factors, including a shift in electricity generation from coal to natural gas, growth in renewable energy, level electricity demand, and improved vehicle efficiency.

The C2ES business-as-usual forecast, drawn from a number of analyses, projects an additional 5.6 percent reduction in net emissions through such policies as greenhouse gas standards for vehicles and the Clean Power Plan.

The rest of the anticipated 22 percent in emissions reductions is expected to come from new, higher estimates of future carbon sequestration and additional measures under development, including steps to strengthen fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, and reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Filling the remaining gap of at least 270 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent will require further steps, such as additional federal policies, technological advances that lower the cost of emissions reduction, and stronger efforts by cities and businesses.

“We’ve seen unprecedented support from cities and businesses for the Paris Agreement and climate action,” Perciasepe said. “Cities and businesses should press forward with their efforts, and we need to quantify their progress and learn from their examples to help the United States reach its climate goal.”

Read the analysis.

Additional Resources

About C2ES: The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting strong policy and action to address our energy and climate challenges. Learn more at www.c2es.org.

Secondary Carbon Markets

Secondary Carbon Markets

April 2016

Download the Fact Sheet (PDF)

Many state regulators are considering carbon trading as a compliance option with the Clean Power Plan. An important part of carbon trading is the secondary carbon market—the market among private sector buyers and sellers that arises to provide more efficient price discovery, price-hedging opportunities, and satisfy compliance demand. This fact sheet provides a brief overview of the role of different types of secondary market participants and key policy choices that need to be made to allow secondary markets under the Clean Power Plan.

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How the US can meet its climate pledge

The following was published in March 2016 on the EcoWomen blog. View the original post here.

I let out a cheer when Leonardo DiCaprio mentioned climate change during his Oscars acceptance speech. But concern about climate extends far beyond the red carpet.

Religious leaders, military officials, mayors, governors, business executives, and leaders of the world’s nations are all speaking about the need to address the greenhouse gas emissions that threaten our environment and economies.

Last December, world leaders reached a landmark climate agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21) that commits all countries to contribute their best efforts and establishes a system to hold them accountable. COP 21’s Paris Agreement also sent a signal to the world to ramp up investment in a clean energy and clean transportation future.

The U.S. committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 level by 2025. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Clean Power Plan was touted as a key policy tool to help reach that goal. However, with the recent surprise stay of the rule by U.S. Supreme Court, can the U.S. still meet its climate pledge? Simply put, yes.

How the US can meet its climate pledge

The following was published in March 2016 on the EcoWomen blog. View the original post here.

By Manjyot Bhan, Policy Fellow, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

I let out a cheer when Leonardo DiCaprio mentioned climate change during his Oscars acceptance speech. But concern about climate extends far beyond the red carpet.

Religious leaders, military officials, mayors, governors, business executives, and leaders of the world’s nations are all speaking about the need to address the greenhouse gas emissions that threaten our environment and economies.

Last December, world leaders reached a landmark climate agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21) that commits all countries to contribute their best efforts and establishes a system to hold them accountable. COP 21’s Paris Agreement also sent a signal to the world to ramp up investment in a clean energy and clean transportation future.

The U.S. committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 level by 2025. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Clean Power Plan was touted as a key policy tool to help reach that goal. However, with the recent surprise stay of the rule by U.S. Supreme Court, can the U.S. still meet its climate pledge? Simply put, yes.

Under the Clean Power Plan, the EPA sets unique emissions goals for each state and encouraged states to craft their own solutions. It is projected that the rule will reduce power sector carbon emissions at least 32 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030.

Last month’s stay does not challenge “whether” EPA can regulate—the court has already ruled that it can—but rather “how” it can regulate. And the stay is not stopping many states and power companies from continuing to plan for a low-carbon future.

Some of the key ingredients that led to success at COP 21—national leadership and a strong showing by “sub-national actors,” including states, cities and businesses—will also be fundamental to U.S. success in meeting its climate goals.

recent event in Washington—held by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and New America—outlined the gap between existing policy trajectories and the U.S. goal. A secondary outcome of the meeting also explored how federal, state, and local policies and actions can leverage technology to close the gap.

An analysis by the Rhodium Group found that even without the Clean Power Plan, the recently extended federal tax credits for solar and wind energy will help significantly. Existing federal policies on fuel economy standards for vehicles and energy efficiency also support the U.S. goals, as well policies in the works to regulate hydrofluorocarbons and methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

States and cities made a strong showing of support for the Paris Agreement, and they have emerged as leaders in promoting energy efficiency and clean energy.

Additionally, many states are continuing to work toward implementing aspects of the Clean Power Plan. And even those not doing public planning are discussing ways states and the power sector can collaborate to cut carbon emissions cost-effectively. Last month, a bipartisan group of 17 governors announced they will jointly pursue energy efficiency, renewable energy, and electric and alternatively fueled vehicles. The Clean Power Plan stay can be looked at as giving states more time to innovate.

More than 150 companies have signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge committing to steps such as cutting emissions, reducing water usage and using more renewable energy across their supply chains. One hundred companies have signed the Business Backs Low-Carbon USA, which calls the entire business community to transition to a low-carbon future.

Following the court’s stay, many power companies came out in support of the rule or reaffirmed plans to work toward clean energy and energy-efficiency.

2015 UNEP report suggests that beyond each countries’ individual commitments, actions by sub-national actors across the globe can result in net additional contributions of 0.75 to 2 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2020. While it is hard to accurately quantify the specific contributions of U.S. states, cities, and businesses in reducing emissions, they have the potential to accelerate the pace at which the U.S. meets its climate goals.

 

Bob Perciasepe statement on US-Canada climate cooperation

Statement of Bob Perciasepe
President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

March 10, 2016

With their joint announcement today, President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau have set the stage for closer cooperation than ever before between the United States and Canada in meeting our shared climate and energy challenges. Given the inextricable links between our economies and our energy systems, it’s in everyone’s interest that our respective efforts are more closely aligned. 

We’re especially encouraged by the emphasis placed by the two leaders on the use of market-based approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as cost-effectively as possible. California and Quebec have already formally linked their emissions trading systems, and the recent Paris Agreement can facilitate broader use of market-based policies globally. As the United States and Canada work to strengthen their domestic policies and implement the Paris Agreement, they should explore opportunities to realize the environmental and economic benefits of a more fully developed regional trading system.

In other areas, including the urgent need to reduce short-lived climate forcers such as methane and hydrofluorocarbons, the two leaders have set ambitious goals. In pursuing their common agenda, it is vital the two governments continue work in close partnership with the private sector to ensure that policies aimed at achieving those goals are practical and cost-effective.

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Contact: Laura Rehrmann, rehrmannl@c2es.org or 703-516-0621

About C2ES: The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting strong policy and action to address the challenges of energy and climate change. Learn more at www.c2es.org.

We need states to show clean energy leadership

Smart policy often comes from the states, and many states have shown and are expected to continue to show leadership in addressing climate change and promoting clean energy.

The Clean Power Plan stimulated discussions across the country, sometimes for the first time, among state energy and environment department officials, regulators, and energy companies about ways to reduce emissions. And we see momentum to keep those and other conversations going.

Consider some of the many ways states are leading:

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