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

The Bingaman Clean Energy Standard: Let the Conversation Begin

This is the first blog post in a multi-part series on the Bingaman Clean Energy Standard. Read part 2.

When the idea of a “clean energy standard” (CES) was first proposed a couple of years ago, it was viewed as the Republican alternative to both a renewable energy standard and a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program. Many Republicans favored this approach because it included not just renewable energy, but also traditional Republican priorities such as nuclear power, hydropower, and clean coal.

Following the defeat of cap-and-trade legislation, President Obama began to see merit in this approach too. He proposed a Clean Energy Standard in his State of the Union in 2011 and again this year.

In a few days, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is expected to introduce a CES bill. If it is anything like the long line of earlier Bingaman bills, it will be a thoughtful balance of economic, energy, and environmental objectives, and – to those of us who read a lot of legislation – beautifully written.

How U.S. Can Lead on Short-Lived Climate Pollutants

With Secretary Clinton’s announcement this week of a new coalition aimed at short-lived climate pollutants such as methane and soot, the U.S. is helping to focus international attention on a critical but frequently overlooked dimension of the climate challenge. To maximize its leadership on this front, the U.S. should also take stronger steps to tackle these pollutants at home.

The new multilateral effort to address short-lived climate pollutants (also called short-lived climate forcers) is an important recognition of both the scientific and political realities that surround climate change. A growing body of scientific evidence underscores the importance of near-term action to slow the rate of climate change, which is proceeding more rapidly than scientists predicted. Because methane, black carbon and hydroflurorocarbons (HFCs) have relatively short atmospheric lifetimes, reductions in these compounds will have significant near-term benefits in reducing climate change.  In contrast, carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. Reductions in CO2 are critical to limit the amount of warming over the longer term, but have more limited impact in the near term.   

Fast Action to Reduce the Risks of Climate Change: U.S. Options to Limit Short-Lived Climate Pollutants

February 2012

Download a PDF version of the fact sheet

Short-lived climate pollutants such as soot, methane and hydroflurorocarbons (HFCs) account for 30 to 40 percent of global warming to date. Targeted efforts to reduce these emissions can slow the pace of global warming and moderate climate impacts already underway, including the melting of sea ice and glaciers. By reducing local air pollution, such measures would also produce substantial public health benefits and reduce crop losses, particularly in developing countries. The factsheet outlines ways to further reduce U.S. emissions of these short-lived pollutants.

Through a broad range of efforts – including voluntary programs to reduce methane emissions, regulation of diesel emissions, and the development of alternatives to HFCs – the United States has made substantial progress in reducing short-lived climate pollutants, also called short-lived climate forcers. Options to strengthen these domestic efforts including the following: 

Federal leadership in reducing short-lived climate pollutants

A 2009 Executive Order, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance (E.O. 13514), directs agencies across the federal government to compile inventories of their greenhouse gas emissions, and to set targets and develop plans for reducing those emissions through 2020. HFCs and methane (but not black carbon) are explicitly included among the greenhouse gases covered under E.O. 13514. The Administration could instruct the Federal Environmental Executive charged with implementing the Executive Order to provide guidance directing all agencies to place a priority on identifying actions aimed at reducing emissions of all short-lived climate pollutants.  For example, agencies could be encouraged to purchase products made without HFCs, to retrofit their dirtiest diesel engines, and to take actions to facilitate capture of methane emissions from existing gas and oil wells and coal mines on federal lands.

An inter-agency Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Task Force could develop tools to help agencies develop and implement plans to reduce these compounds. 

Methane reductions from oil and gas production and processing

Natural gas is mostly methane, and the natural gas industry is the single largest source of methane emissions from the United States, due primarily to leaks and intentional routine releases of gas. In July, 2011, EPA proposed new source performance standards and hazardous pollutant regulations for oil and gas production and gas processing, transmission and storage facilities. While primarily aimed at reducing smog-forming and toxic pollutants, the proposed rules also have the indirect effect of reducing methane emissions in significant amounts. By capturing and beneficially using methane emissions, EPA estimates that the proposed rules would result in a net cost-savings to industry. If finalized as proposed, the rules will begin to address one of the concerns about the extent of methane emissions from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a segment of the industry which is rapidly growing.[1] EPA estimates the proposed rules would reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 26 percent, or 3.4 million tons – equal to 65 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.[2]

EPA could maximize cost-effective methane reductions in finalizing the proposed rules. However since these rules apply only to new and modified facilities, EPA could take additional action to address methane emissions from existing facilities. EPA could issue new regulations directly regulating methane emissions from new and existing facilities or it could expand its Natural Gas Star program to include voluntary reduction targets by participating companies at their existing facilities. 

Methane reductions at municipal solid waste landfills

Solid waste landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions in the United States, accounting for 17 percent of U.S. methane emissions and almost 2 percent of our total greenhouse gas emissions.[3] In March 1996, EPA issued final rules regulating the emission of air pollutants from municipal solid waste landfills.  This rule substantially reduced smog-forming and hazardous pollutants. While methane emissions are not regulated directly, the 1996 performance standards had an important indirect effect in reducing methane emissions from the largest landfills. That is because under these standards, landfills are required to collect and combust their “landfill gas” (LFG) if they have a design capacity of more than 2.5 million tons and more than 2.5 million cubic meters of waste. EPA estimated that the rule would reduce methane emissions by 37 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, even though it impacts less than 5 percent of all landfills.

The most straightforward way to significantly reduce methane emissions from this sector would be to bring more landfills into the existing regulatory scheme by lowering both the emission threshold and the capacity thresholds to reflect the fact that today, landfills as small as 1 million metric tons design capacity have successfully implemented LFG collection systems. The 1996 rule has been in place unchanged far longer than the 8-year review period called for under the Clean Air Act and new standards are in order.   EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program estimates that an additional 500 sites represent potentially attractive opportunities for low cost capture and beneficial use of methane emissions. These sites have a potential for methane reductions of 13 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.   

Under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act, EPA could revise this rule to double the number of sites that are required to capture methane emissions and to work with states to facilitate effective implementation of this requirement.  

HFC reductions from vehicle air conditioners

Section 612 was included in the Clean Air Act to ensure the health and safety of alternatives being developed and used to replace chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone-depleting substances. While HFC-134a was an important alternative in allowing for an accelerated phase-out of CFC-12, it has a global warming potential of 1300.  With the development of more environmentally benign alternatives, it is now time for EPA to delist HFC-134a as an acceptable alternative. In February 2011, EPA accepted as complete a petition to delist HFC-134a for use in new air conditioners for light-duty vehicles. However, it did not establish a timetable for taking action and did not address the use of HFC-134a in other applications that should also be delisted.

HFCs currently represent less than 2 percent of the nation’s GHG emissions. They are expected to double by 2020. HFC-134a from auto air conditioning is by far the largest source of HFC emissions.

EPA should propose and finalize a rule as soon as feasible delisting HFC-134a for use in new car air conditioners on a timeframe consistent with the availability of adequate supplies of the alternatives. It also should review other significant uses where HFC-134a currently is approved (e.g., aerosols and other refrigerant uses) and determine whether or not any of these uses should also be delisted.

HFC reductions from appliances

In December 2010, EPA proposed a rule to lower the leak rates that trigger repair requirements for comfort cooling, commercial refrigeration, and industrial process refrigeration and air conditioning equipment that use ozone-depleting refrigerants. While reducing leaks of ozone-depleting gases from existing equipment remains an important objective, these refrigerants have or are in the process of being replaced in all of these types of new equipment largely with HFCs. Emissions from HFCs escaping from refrigeration systems account for up to 20 percent of total emissions of these compounds. Under section 608 of the Clean Air Act, the scope of the pending regulations could be expanded from ozone-depleting substances to include HFCs when used as the refrigerant in these types of equipment.

This initiative would require EPA to propose an amendment to the agency’s December 2010 proposal. The revised proposal would impose maximum leakage rates when HFCs are used as the refrigerant in these refrigeration and air conditioning applications.

Black carbon reductions from existing diesel vehicles

 With an atmospheric lifetime of weeks, reductions in black carbon can have the greatest near-term impact on slowing climate change. While recently enacted particulate matter standards require new diesel engines to reduce their black carbon emissions by 99 percent below uncontrolled levels, existing diesel vehicles and equipment will remain a significant source of emissions over the next few decades. However, existing retrofit technologies (primarily diesel particulate filters) can substantially reduce black carbon emissions from existing equipment. Congress recognized the importance of these efforts to reduce emissions from existing diesel engines when it passed the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) of 2010. With broad support from industry and environmental groups, this law authorized appropriations of up to $100 million annually for programs (originally created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005) aimed at reducing diesel emissions for fiscal years 2012 through 2016. Innovative funding and state grant programs have been supported under DERA. While funding for this program was eliminated in FY2012, it has been reinstated in the President’s budget request for FY2013.    

Additional Measures

Additional alternatives that should be further explored include both new regulatory measures and expansion of voluntary programs. EPA has begun to use the Clean Air Act to directly regulate greenhouse gas emissions and is required under the Act to take additional actions. For example, it could issue specific standards requiring methane reductions from landfills, natural gas production, distribution and storage, and other major sources. It could also require reductions in black carbon emissions from large diesel engines when they are undergoing major rebuilds. The agency could strengthen regulatory measures restricting the use of HFCs in those sectors where alternatives are becoming available applications. EPA could also expand programs to capture and use methane from coal-bed mining and agricultural sources and strengthen voluntary programs to recover and destroy CFCs, HCFCs, and HFCs from discarded appliances.

C2ES Resources:

  • Bodansky, Daniel, Multilateral Climate Efforts Beyond the UNFCCC, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, Nov. 2011. 
    This report looks at a number of multilateral entities that could play a role in addressing certain of the SLCFs including: the Montreal Protocol as a possible  venue for HFCs and the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution as a possible venue for BC, methane and other ozone-precursors. 
  • Bachmann, John, Black Carbon: A Science/Policy Primer, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (formerly the Pew Center on Global Climate Change), 2009.
    This paper summarizes current knowledge on the effects of soot components—black carbon and organic particles—on climate, and identifies sources and technologies to mitigate their impacts. It also presents perspectives on the potential role of soot mitigation approaches in developing more comprehensive climate strategies.
  • What is Black Carbon?, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (formerly the Pew Center on Global Climate Change), April 2010. 
    This factsheet provides an overview of black carbon as a major contributor to global climate change. It describes why reducing black carbon is a win-win scenario for both climate and health reasons.

[1] The most important aspect of the proposed rules are new requirements that operators using hydraulic fracturing on new or modified natural gas wells capture the largest amounts of natural gas that is often emitted into the air during the fracking process.   While the rules don’t directly regulate greenhouse gases, they will result in substantially reduced methane emissions from fracking, and therefore reduce the climate impacts of this rapidly expanding source of natural gas.

[2] Methane has a 100-year global warming potential of 25 times that of carbon dioxide.

[3] USEPA, Inventory of US GHG Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2009 (April 2011), at ES-5.



Eileen Claussen Comments on the Climate and Clean Energy Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollution

Statement of Eileen Claussen
President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

February 16, 2012

The Climate and Clean Energy Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollution offers a promising avenue for practical action to slow the pace of global warming.

Going after black carbon, methane and other short-lived climate forcers is no substitute for a strong, sustained effort to significantly reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the main driver of climate change. Nor can this new coalition take the place of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the principal forum for mobilizing the global climate response.

But targeted efforts to reduce short-lived climate pollution can moderate climate impacts in the near term while we work toward the longer-term strategies needed to rein in carbon dioxide emissions. They could prove especially critical in slowing the loss of sea ice and of glaciers that millions rely on for freshwater. Many of these measures would also protect public health by curbing local air pollution, particularly in developing countries.

At a time when comprehensive solutions to the climate challenge are not yet at hand, we need to tackle it piece by piece, pursuing practical strategies wherever we can. This coalition is a good example. If the countries launching it can deliver the resources, and succeed in recruiting others to the effort, this new initiative has the potential to make a real difference.   

Contact: Rebecca Matulka, 703-516-4146

Learn more about short-lived climate forcers


Addressing Climate Change in the Near Term: Short-Lived Climate Forcers

There is growing recognition within the scientific and policy communities that efforts to address climate change should focus not only on substantially reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, but also on near-term actions to reduce climate-warming substances with much shorter atmospheric lifetimes. These are called short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs). This two-pronged strategy would accomplish two goals:

  1. Reducing CO2 emissions limits the ultimate amount of warming. Because CO2 represents by far the largest source of climate-warming emissions, and because it stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, large reductions in CO2 emissions are required to meet any long-term climate stabilization goal, such as the 2°C goal set by the international community.
  2. Reducing emissions of short-lived climate forcers would, on the other hand, slow the near-term rate of climate change. Scientists estimate that SLCFs account for 30 to 40 percent of the human-induced warming to date. Yet as SLCFs remain in the atmosphere for periods of only a few days to a few decades, their warming effect is short-lived, and reducing their emissions would result in more immediate benefits. In addition to limiting climate impacts already underway, including important regional impacts such as glacial melting, SLCF reductions would reduce local air pollution and produce other co-benefits. The U.N. Environment Programme recently estimated that aggressive efforts to reduce SLCFs would avoid 2.4 million premature deaths by 2030 and reduce warming between now and 2040 by a half a degree.


Key Short-Lived Climate Forcers

Methane has an atmospheric lifetime of about 12 years. Human-induced methane emissions result primarily from oil and gas production and distribution, coal mining, solid waste landfills, cultivation of rice and ruminant livestock, and biomass burning. Reductions in methane emissions improve local air quality by reducing ground-level ozone, which harms agriculture and human health, and is itself an SLCF.

Black carbon (BC) results from incomplete combustion of biomass and fossil fuels. Its major sources are diesel cars and trucks, cook stoves, forest fires, and agricultural open burning.

Because of a very brief atmospheric lifetime measured in weeks, black carbon's climate effects are strongly regional. BC particles give soot its black color and, like any black surface, strongly absorb sunlight. In snow-covered areas, the deposition of black carbon darkens snow and ice, increasing their absorption of sunlight and making them melt more rapidly. BC may be responsible for a significant fraction of recent warming in the rapidly changing Arctic, contributing to the acceleration of sea ice loss. BC also is contributing to the melting of Himalayan glaciers, a major source of freshwater for millions of people in Asia, and may be driving some of the recent reduction in snowpack in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

Black carbon's short lifetime also means that its contribution to climate warming would dissipate quickly if emissions were reduced. Additionally, since BC contributes to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, reductions in BC emissions would have significant co-benefits for human health, particularly in developing countries.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are a family of industrially produced chemicals widely used in refrigeration and air conditioning. They were developed to replace ozone-depleting substances a few decades ago, HFC-134a, the most widely used of these compounds, has an atmospheric lifetime of 13 years.

As many ozone-depleting substances are also potent greenhouse gases, their phase-out under the Montreal Protocol has contributed indirectly but very significantly to climate mitigation efforts to date. The treaty's net contribution to climate mitigation is estimated to be five to six times larger than the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period targets.

Many countries now favor working through the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs. A proposal by the United States, Mexico and Canada would require an 85 percent reduction in specified HFCs by 2033 for developed countries, and 2043 for developing countries. A proposal by the States of Micronesia and Mauritius calls for a 90 percent reduction by developed countries by 2030, but specifies no schedule for developing countries.


C2ES Resources:

  • Bachmann, John and Seidel, Stephen, Domestic Policies to Reduce the Near-Term Risk of Climate Change. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, 2013.
    This paper sets out a series of cost-effective steps that the Obama Administration can implement under existing authorities that would deliver substantial near-term reductions in the rate of climate change.
  • Fast Action to Reduce the Risks of Climate Change: U.S. Options to Limit Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, Feb. 2012
  • Bodansky, Daniel, Multilateral Climate Efforts Beyond the UNFCCC, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, Nov. 2011.
    This report looks at a number of multilateral entities that could play a role in addressing certain of the SLCFs including: the Montreal Protocol as a possible venue for HFCs and the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution as a possible venue for BC, methane and other ozone-precursors.
  • Bachmann, John, Black Carbon: A Science/Policy Primer, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (formerly the Pew Center on Global Climate Change), 2009.
    This paper summarizes current knowledge on the effects of soot components—black carbon and organic particles—on climate, and identifies sources and technologies to mitigate their impacts. It also presents perspectives on the potential role of soot mitigation approaches in developing more comprehensive climate strategies.
  • What is Black Carbon?, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (formerly the Pew Center on Global Climate Change), April 2010.
    This factsheet provides an overview of black carbon as a major contributor to global climate change. It describes why reducing black carbon is a win-win scenario for both climate and health reasons.
  • Read Eileen Claussen's statement on the Climate and Clean Energy Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollution


Additional Resources:


International Forums Focused on SLCFs:


SLCF-Related Initiatives:

C2ES Report Offers Comprehensive Approach to Measure CO2 Reductions from Carbon Capture and Storage

Press Release                                        
February 14, 2012
Contact: Tom Steinfeldt, 703-516-4146

Center for Climate and Energy Solutions’ Framework Lays Groundwork
for Future Energy & Climate Policy Action

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new report released today by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) provides the first-ever comprehensive framework for calculating carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reductions from carbon capture and storage (CCS). The framework equips policymakers and project developers with common methodologies for quantifying the emission impacts of CCS projects.

CCS involves a suite of technologies that can be used to prevent CO2 from power plants and large industrial facilities from entering the atmosphere. The three main steps are capturing and compressing the CO2 , transporting it to suitable storage sites, and injecting it into geologic formations for secure and permanent storage. CCS technology has the potential to achieve dramatic reductions in CO2 emissions from the electricity sector, including from coal-fueled power plants.

“Ensuring reliable, affordable energy while reducing carbon emissions is a critical challenge, and in the years ahead, carbon capture and storage will likely be an essential part of the solution,” said C2ES President Eileen Claussen. “This report provides an important technical foundation for crafting policies to put this technology to work to meet our energy, climate and economic objectives.”

The report, Greenhouse Gas Accounting Framework for Carbon Capture and Storage Projects, includes detailed methodologies to calculate emission reductions at each stage of the CCS process: CO2 capture, transport, and injection and storage. The methods were developed with input from CCS experts in industry, academia, and the environmental community (see report for list of participants). 

For CO2 capture, the report outlines methods for multiple CO2 sources, including electric power plants with pre-combustion, post-combustion, or oxy-fired technologies, and industrial facilities involved in natural gas production, fertilizer manufacturing, and ethanol production. For CO2 transport, the framework focuses on pipelines, which are the most viable transportation option for large-scale CCS. With respect to the geological storage of CO2, the framework applies to saline aquifers, depleted oil and gas fields, and enhanced oil and gas recovery sites.

Worldwide, 15 large CCS projects are in operation or under construction, according to the Global CCS Institute. Their combined CO2 storage capacity exceeds 35 million tons a year, roughly equivalent to preventing the emissions from more than 6 million cars from entering the atmosphere each year. Four CCS projects – three in the U.S. and one in Canada – have started construction since 2010, and three of these are linked to enhanced oil recovery operations. Globally, 59 additional projects are in the planning stage.

C2ES also is facilitating the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative, a group of policymakers and stakeholders seeking to increase U.S. domestic oil production and energy security and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through enhanced oil recovery (EOR) using captured CO2. Recommendations for federal and state policy to ramp up CO2-EOR will be released later this year.

Additional background about CCS is available in C2ES’s Climate Techbook. For more information about the climate and energy challenge and the activities of C2ES, visit www.C2ES.org.


About C2ES
The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent non-profit, non-partisan organization promoting strong policy and action to address the twin challenges of energy and climate change. Launched in November 2011, C2ES is the successor to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, long recognized in the United States and abroad as an influential and pragmatic voice on climate issues. C2ES is led by Eileen Claussen, who previously led the Pew Center and is the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

The Dawn of a New Day for Autos

A lot has changed in the two years since I made my first visit to the Washington Auto Show. Back then, gas prices averaged $2.68 per gallon and the Nissan LEAF looked like a “car of the future” compared to the other vehicles on the showroom floor. Now, prices at the pump are 25 percent higher, averaging $3.50 per gallon in 2011, and fuel costs are eating up the largest share of the average American’s income in over 30 years. Meanwhile, the auto industry is adapting their product line to their new environment and cooperating more closely with regulators. The 2012 auto show includes many more alternative vehicles like the all-electric Ford Focus (see picture below) and the Prius V, a 42 mile per gallon hybrid station wagon.

Practical Energy Solutions

The White House Jobs Council recently released its year-end report outlining a plan to strengthen the United States’ economic future. While the tax and regulatory reform proposals are bound to cause disagreements, the Council developed pragmatic recommendations regarding energy’s role in improving the economy. The report recognizes the state of politics and low-carbon energy deployment, while highlighting the economic opportunities—including energy savings, leading emerging technology markets, and enhanced energy security—made possible by transitioning to a low-carbon economy. The Council’s energy recommendations include:

January 2012 Newsletter

Click here to view our January 2012 newsletter.

Learn about the Climate Leadership Conference, Australia's new carbon pricing mechanism, the Make an Impact energy conservation challenge, and more in C2ES's January 2012 newsletter.

Eileen Claussen Reacts to President Obama's State of the Union Address

Statement of Eileen Claussen
President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

January 24, 2012

We share President Obama’s enthusiasm for homegrown solutions to America’s energy challenges. Without question, America has the resources and know-how to produce more energy at home, strengthening both our economy and our national security. But protecting the climate also has to be part of the equation. If we sensitively develop domestic reserves, get serious about ramping up new energy sources, and push efficiency across the board, we can both meet America’s energy needs and dramatically shrink our carbon footprint.

Even if comprehensive legislation remains off the table for now, we can make important progress tackling these challenges piece by piece. C2ES is working with policymakers and stakeholders on ways to expand enhanced oil recovery using captured carbon dioxide – an approach that can boost domestic oil production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, we’re working with automakers, environmentalists and others on a plan for integrating plug-in electric vehicles into the U.S. electrical grid. We look forward to sharing the results of these and other C2ES initiatives aimed at practical solutions to our twin climate and energy challenges.

Contact: Tom Steinfeldt, 703-516-4146

Read the full transcript of the 2012 State of the Union Address

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