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
In his speech on Tuesday laying out a national climate action plan, President Obama called on federal agencies to lead by example in taking actions to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases.
In a new report today, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) highlights one area where the federal government is making progress, and can achieve much more. It’s called Leading by Example 2.0: How Information and Communication Technologies Help Federal Agencies Meet Sustainability Goals.
Faced with declining budgets, federal agencies are looking for innovative ways to cut costs while meeting a growing list of sustainability mandates. Expanding the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) – metering and energy management systems for buildings, GPS-based tools for fleets, teleconferencing, e-training, teleworking, and cloud-based data storage – offer agencies new ways to reduce their energy use, cut greenhouse gas emissions and enhance productivity.
We estimate widespread deployment of ICT could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 12 percent, roughly half the amount called for under a 2009 executive order, and could save an estimated $5 billion in energy costs through 2020.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama promised stronger action on climate change. Today he followed up with a credible and comprehensive plan. The real issue now is how vigorously he follows through.
From a policy perspective, the president’s plan lacks the sweep, cohesion and ambition that might be possible through new legislation. With Congress unwilling to act, the president instead is offering an amalgam of actions across the federal government, relying on executive powers alone.
Taken together, the actions represent the broadest climate strategy put forward by any U.S. president, addressing the need to both cut carbon emissions and strengthen climate resilience. While many of the specific items are relatively small-bore, and quite a few are actions already underway, the plan also includes new initiatives that can significantly advance the U.S. climate effort.
Statement of Eileen Claussen
President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
June 25, 2013
President Obama is laying out a credible, comprehensive strategy to use the tools at his disposal to strengthen the U.S. response to climate change. His plan recognizes that the costs of climate change are real and rising, and that to minimize them we must both cut our carbon output and strengthen our climate resilience. Putting these critical issues before the American public is itself a step forward. But it will require continued presidential leadership to translate the plan’s good intentions into concrete policy.
The most cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is for Congress to enact an economy-wide price on carbon. As long as Congress is unwilling to act, the president is right to use his powers under the Clean Air Act to curb emissions from power plants, by far the largest unregulated source of U.S. carbon emissions. Many companies are prepared to work with the administration on pragmatic approaches that cut emissions while keeping U.S. electricity affordable and reliable. Companies want regulatory certainty and know that continued inaction exposes them to increasing climate risks.
In crafting the power plant rules, EPA should consult widely with utilities and with the states, which ultimately must implement them. We strongly encourage EPA to devise a flexible strategy that allows a variety of state-level policies, including market-based approaches, and allows utilities to cut emissions at the lowest possible cost.
With extreme weather and other climate impacts being felt across the country, the president also is right to place equal emphasis on strengthening America’s climate resilience. His plan will help communities and businesses apply the lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy and other extreme events to better cope with future climate risks.
Implementing the president’s plan will be extremely challenging. But a clear majority of the American public favors stronger climate action, and with a plan in place, the administration must now follow through with a true sense of urgency. We look forward to working with the administration as it moves forward.
Contact: Laura Rehrmann, 703-516-0621, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan 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. Learn more at www.c2es.org.
Energy efficiency standards for appliances and equipment reduce energy use in residential and commercial buildings and the associated greenhouse gas emissions. In 2011, buildings, and the appliances and equipment used inside of them, accounted for 34 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (emitted either directly from the buildings or in the generation of the electricity used in the buildings).
Laws authorizing the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to set appliance and equipment efficiency standards were first enacted in the 1980s and have since been expanded to new categories of equipment. DOE also is required to periodically strengthen existing standards. In setting a standard, DOE must take into consideration factors including increased cost of the product, lifetime operating cost savings, total projected energy savings, the need for national energy savings, impacts on product performance, and impacts on manufacturer competition. Altogether, the new and strengthened 2013 standards are expected to cumulatively save between $4.9 billion and $16.3 billion and prevent the emission of 300 million tons of CO2.
DOE recently set new energy efficiency standards for microwave ovens and distribution transformers:
- Microwave ovens. Microwave ovens are consumer products that use microwaves to cook or heat food. Some microwave ovens also have thermal elements that allow them to cook food much like a conventional oven. Standards for this equipment were first authorized by the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987. However, the first efficiency standards for microwaves for power consumption during operation, as well as standby mode, were released on June 17, 2013. These standards are expected to save consumers from $1.53 billion to $3.38 billion and prevent the emission of 38.11 million metric tons of CO2.
- Distribution Transformers. Distribution transformers transform the high-voltage electric current from power lines into lower-voltage electricity that can be used in homes and businesses. These transformers can be found in metal boxes on utility poles where power enters a neighborhood, at ground level on a metal slab, or underground. Standards for liquid-immersed and medium-voltage dry-type distribution transformers were first required under the Energy Policy Act of 1992, while standards for medium-voltage dry-type distribution transformers were set in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Strengthened standards for all types were issued by DOE in a final rule on April 18, 2013. These standards are expected to save from $3.4 billion to $12.9 billion and prevent the emission of 264.7 million metric tons of CO2.
Metal halide lamp fixtures. Metal halide lamp fixtures provide lighting for parking lots and streets, flood lighting, athletic facilities, big-box stores, and warehouses. Standards for this equipment were first established in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Strengthened standards were issued by DOE in a final rule on February 10, 2014. These standards are expected to save consumers from $950 million to $3.2 billion by 2046 and avoid the emission of 22.5 to 27.8 million metric tons of CO2.
External power supplies. External power supplies are the boxes on power cords that convert household electric current into direct current or lower-voltage alternating current in order to operate consumer products, such as computers or cell phones. Standards for this equipment were first established in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Strengthened standards were issued by DOE in a final rule on February 10, 2014. These standards are expected to save consumers from $1.9 billion to $3.8 billion by 2044 and avoid the emission of 47 million metric tons of CO2.
Commercial refrigeration equipment. Commercial refrigeration equipment is used for food storage and merchandising in the food retail industry (e.g., grocery stores, supermarkets convenience stores, specialty food stores) and the foodservice industry (e.g., restaurants and cafeterias). Standards for this type of equipment were first established in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Strengthened standards were issued by DOE in a final rule on March 28, 2014. These standards are expected to save businesses between $4.9 billion and $11.7 billion by 2047 and avoid the emission of 142 million metric tons of CO2.
Walk-in coolers and freezers. The coolers and freezers covered by the new standards are used to store refrigerated or frozen food or other perishable goods, and are used primarily in the food service and food sales industry. Coolers and freezers covered by the regulations are enclosed storage spaces that can be walked into, have a total chilled storage area of less than 3,000 square feet, and do not include products designed and marketed exclusively for medical, scientific, or research purposes. The 2013 standards for walk-in coolers and freezers set a minimum R-value* for insulating panels, as well as requirements for doors, door closures, motors and lighting. Standards for this equipment were first established in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 . In May 2014, DOE issued a final rule that would avoid the emission of 159 million metric tons of CO2 by 2046. The rule will go into effect in 2017. (*R-value is a measure of the amount of insulation provided. For example, insulation panels with a higher R-value will allow less heat to pass through them.)
Electric motors. Electric motors convert electric energy into rotational energy and are often used for blowers, compressors, conveyors, fans, and pumps. There are three categories of electric motors, defined, among other ways, by their voltage, power, and rotation speed. Standards for this equipment were first established in the Energy Policy Act of 1992, but the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 significantly expanded the scope of covered motors. In May 2014, DOE issued a final rule for electric motors that would avoid emission of 395 million metric tons of CO2 by 2044. The rule will go into effect in December 2015.
Furnace Fans. Furnace fans circulate heated air through a home’s duct system. Standards for this equipment were first authorized in the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975. In June 2014, DOE announced the first ever energy efficiency standard for furnace fans. This standard will avoid the emission of 181 million metric tons of CO2 by 2048 and go into effect in 2019.
DOE is currently considering establishing or strengthening energy efficiency standards for these categories of appliances and equipment:
- Portable Air Conditioners. Portable air conditioners are units that cool air and can be moved from room to room. They are distinct from window box units or central air conditioning systems. DOE is soliciting public comments on a proposed rule to include portable air conditioners as a category of consumer appliances for which standards can be established.
- Computers. Computers are devices that include (but is not necessarily limited to) desktop computers, integrated desktop computers, laptop/notebook/netbook computers, and workstations. DOE is soliciting public comments on a proposed rule to include computers as a category of consumer appliances for which standards can be established.
- Computer servers. Computer servers provide services and manage networked resources for client devices such as desktop and laptop computers. These services and resources are accessed via a network connection. DOE is soliciting public comments on a proposed rule to include computer servers as a category of equipment for which standards can be established.
- Commercial refrigeration equipment. Commercial refrigeration equipment is used for food storage and merchandising in the food retail industry (e.g., grocery stores, supermarkets convenience stores, specialty food stores) and the foodservice industry (e.g., restaurants and cafeterias). Standards for this type of equipment were first established in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. DOE has set a deadline of 2014 for a new final rule. Proposed regulations were released in August 2013 that, if finalized, would prevent the emission of 55 million tons of CO2 over 30 years.
- Ellipsoidal diameter, bulged reflector, and small diameter reflector lamps. Ellipsoidal diameter, bulged reflector, and small diameter reflector lamps are types of incandescent reflector lamps (IRLs). IRLs are directional lamps, such as spotlights and floodlights, which can be used in residential and commercial applications, such as recessed downlighting and track lighting. They have a reflective coating on the inside of the bulb to focus and aim the light. While most IRLs were subject to efficiency standards under the Energy Policy Act of 1992, these subcategories were excluded before enactment of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, and then delayed by a rider to the FY 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations bill.
President Obama's Climate Action Plan outlines a wide array of actions his administration will take using existing authorities to reduce carbon pollution, increase energy efficiency, expand renewable and other low-carbon energy sources, and strengthen resilience to extreme weather and other climate impacts. As part of the plan, annoujnced in June 2013, the president directed the Environmental Protection Agency to set standards by June 2015 to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants.
C2ES President Eileen Claussen calls Obama's plan "a credible, comprehensive strategy to use the tools at his disposal to strengthen the U.S. response to climate change. His plan recognizes that the costs of climate change are real and rising, and that to minimize them we must both cut our carbon output and strengthen our climate resilience."
Here are links to:
- The President’s Climate Action Plan
- President Obama’s speech at Georgetown University
- The President’s Memorandum to EPA on Power Sector Carbon Pollution Standards
C2ES Resources on Key Topics:
President Obama’s Climate Action Plan focuses on:
- Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions
- Energy Efficiency
- Renewable Energy
- Natural Gas
- Leading by Example
- Climate Resilience
- International Climate Change Leadership
Congress has granted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to regulate a wide range of pollutants through several laws, including the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that EPA has authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases. Carbon pollution standards for new power plants proposed by EPA in March 2012 have not yet been finalized. On June 25, President Obama announced a Presidential Memorandum directing the EPA “to work expeditiously to complete carbon pollution standardsfor both new and existing power plants.”
For more information, see:
- Q & A on Regulating Emissions from Existing Power Plants
- Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants
- EPA Climate and Energy Action
- Overview of the U.S. Power Sector
- Climate Techbook: Carbon Capture and Storage
- Domestic Policies to Reduce the Near-Term Risks of Climate Change
- National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative
The president directed the Department of Energy to build on efficiency standards set during his first term for dishwashers, refrigerators, and other products. He set a goal of cumulatively reducting carbon dioxide emissions by 3 billion metric tons by 2030 through efficiency measures adopted in his first and second terms. The president also committed to build on heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency standards set during his first term with new standards past the 2018 model year.
For more information, see:
- Department of Energy Appliance Standards
- Federal Vehicle Standards
- Make an Impact
- Corporate Energy Efficiency
Renewable energy is the fastest growing energy source. In 2012, renewable energy was responsible for 12.7 percent of net U.S. electricity generation with hydroelectric generation contributing 7.9 percent and wind generation 2.9 percent. In the president’s climate plan, he reiterates his support to make renewable energy production on federal lands a top priority.
For more information, see:
- Renewable Energy
- Clean Energy Markets: Jobs and Opportunities
- Climate Techbook: Solar Power
- Climate Techbook: Wind Power
New drilling technologies such as hydraulic fracturing (sometimes called fracking) have vastly increased the amount of recoverable natural gas in the United States and elsewhere. These advances are projected to keep the price of this lower-carbon fuel near historically low levels, significantly altering energy economics and trends, and opening new opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To better leverage natural gas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the administration will develop an interagency methane strategy to further reduce emissions of this potent greenhouse gas.
For more information, see:
In his first term, President Obama set a goal to reduce federal greenhouse gas emissions by 24 percent by 2020. He also required agencies to enter into at least $2 billion in performance-based contracts by the end of 2013 to finance energy projects with no upfront costs. In his climate plan, the president established a new goal for the federal government to consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020—more than double its current goal of 7.5 percent.
For more information, see:
- Leading by Example: Using Information and Communication Technologies to Achieve Federal Sustainability Goals
The president wants federal agencies to support local investments in climate resilience and convene a task force of state, local, and tribal officials to advise on key actions the federal government can take to help strengthen communities. President Obama also wants to use recovery strategies from Hurricane Sandy to strengthen communities against future extreme weather and other climate impacts and update flood-risk reduction standards for all federally funded projects.
For more information, see:
- Climate Adaptation
- Building Business Resilience to Climate Change
- Climate Change Adaptation: What Federal Agencies Are Doing
- Extreme Weather and Climate Change
- Climate Change and Hurricane Sandy
The president promised to expand new and existing international initiatives with China, India, and other major emitting countries. He also called for an end to U.S. government support for public financing of new coal-fired powers plants overseas, except for the most efficient coal technology available in the world's poorest countries, or facilities deploying carbon capture and sequestration technologies.
For more information, see:
Leading by Example 2.0: How Information and Communication Technologies Help Achieve Federal Sustainability Goals
As the nation’s largest landlord, employer, fleet operator, and purchaser of goods and services, the federal government has the opportunity, if not the responsibility, to lead by example in moving our country in a more economically efficient and environmentally sustainable direction. Faced with tightening budgets, agencies are looking for new ways to reduce costs and increase productivity, while at the same time meeting a growing list of congressional and executive mandates to consume less energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The discussion of a carbon tax continues. Conservatives met recently in Washington, D.C., to debate the mertis of a carbon taxt at an event hosted by the R Street Institute and the Heartland Institute, featuring representatives with opposing viewpoints from four conservative think tanks.
A 2013 C2ES brief found that a carbon tax was one way to put a price on carbon emissions, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and raise significant revenue for the federal government. A tax starting at about $16 per ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2014 and rising 4 percent over inflation per year would raise more than $1.1 trillion in the first 10 years, and more than $2.7 trillion over a 20-year period. This revenue could fund a wide range of things, including deficit reduction, a reduction in statutory corporate income tax rates from 35 percent to 28 percent (often cited as a goal by both conservatives and liberals), and research and development into low-emitting technology. Importantly, such a carbon tax could also reduce CO2 emissions by 9.3 billion tons over 20 years.
The National Journal Energy Experts blog asked this week whether we need to rethink the global warming debate, given the gridlock in Congress. My response is, by all means, we need to change the debate about climate change. But that starts well beyond the Beltway, where farmers, coastal residents, small-town mayors and others are feeling its impact – and are seeing the opportunities in a clean energy future.
I recently replied to a question on the National Journal blog on whether small legislative measures will be effective in fighting climate change.
You can read responses at the National Journal.
Here is my response: