Thursday, May 7, 2009

U.S. EPA Will Regulate Carbon Dioxide under the Clean Air Act

Let me slip this tidbit in first, before I discuss CO2 (it's good to be back after a bit of a hiatus from this blog!). U.S. gasoline prices have quietly leapt higher, from lows of $1.69 per gallon not too long ago to $2.15 per gallon (using the gas station down the street from me in Massachusetts as a gauge).

Quietly, because no one is really talking about "soaring gas prices" at the moment of a really bad economic downturn. Yet the current price represents a 27 percent increase in just a few months.

Much of the energy talk now revolves around which low-carbon strategies to implement in light of making an attempt to stem global warming.

However, oil is currently at $57 per barrel; any further increases will make it much more difficult for the world to recover from recession.

Speaking of global warming, the U.S. EPA in mid-April declared that it would regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) and four other pollutants under the Clean Air Act. This declaration precedes a formal proposal to regulate the greenhouse gases, which include methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. The declaration will be accompanied by the usual quips about human exhalation of CO2 and how it can be controlled!

Here's the detailed EPA description of their decision.

It's a several-months long bureaucratic public process (I used to write about these regulatory issues in a newsletter) before CO2 emissions end up falling under a new final regulation.

However, the Obama administration has now made a complete about-face compared with the Bush presidency in an effort to regulate CO2 emissions and move to a low-carbon economy.

The next stage in this contentious legal arm-wrestling is a proposed "cap-and-trade" system for limiting overall greenhouse gas emissions.