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Congress Drops Carbon Legislation, CO2 Still Drops


Cap-and-Trade Protest - Chicago 2009Even though the carbon taxes and cap-and-trade legislation pushed by the Obama administration in 2010 failed to pass in Congress, it seems that greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions, carbon-dioxide [CO2] mainly, still dropped on a nationwide scale.

Market changes and individual state regulations seem to have made more of an impact than the failed legislation did. “US carbon-dioxide emissions are likely to be lower by 2020 because of regulatory measures and market changes than they would have been under legislation backed by President Barack Obama and Democrats,” said Dallas Burtraw, a senior fellow at Resources for the Future in Washington.

Obama had pledged to reduce CO2 emissions, which scientists directly link to the global warming phenomenon, by 17% by the end of the decade. So far, the US seems to be on track, even without federal legislation.

At least for the short term, 29 states have set their own cap-and-trade programs for manufacturers and utilities. Natural Gas prices have also fallen, making it the better economic choice for power plants, tangentially reducing CO2 emissions.

Burtraw, author of the paper “US Status of Climate Change Mitigation,” said in an interview that he supported a cap-and-trade or carbon tax, and still does today, saying it’s needed to achieve long-term cuts in emissions.

The House of Representatives passed the 2009 Waxman-Markey bill, but the senate just sat on it. Burtraw believes the bill to be important, especially considering its overseas cap-and-trade provisions, which probably would have influenced more worldwide reductions in GHG emissions and encouraged other countries to pass their own climate change mitigation measures.

For now, the individual states and the current flagging market seems to be keeping things under control, but legislation will probably be required if more permanent and effective carbon-dioxide-cutting measures will ever be realized.

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