- The Washington Times - Monday, February 26, 2007


Governors from five Western states agreed yesterday to work together to reduce greenhouse gases, saying their region has suffered some of the worst of global warming with recent droughts and bad fire seasons.

The governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington state agreed to develop a regional target to lower greenhouse gases and create a program aimed at helping businesses reach the still-undecided goals.

“In the absence of meaningful federal action, it is up to the states to take action to address climate change and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in this country,” said Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat. “Western states are being particularly hard-hit by the effects of climate change.”

Meanwhile, one of the world’s top climate scientists called for an end to building new coal-fired power plants in the United States because of their role in spewing out greenhouse gases that many scientists believe contribute to global warming.

“There should be a moratorium on building any more coal-fired power plants,” NASA scientist James Hansen told the National Press Club yesterday. He was one of the earliest top researchers to warn the world of global warming.

Burning coal is one of the major sources of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said a cap-and-trade program, which lets companies that can’t meet their emission-reduction targets buy credits from those that reduce carbon dioxide, would provide “a powerful framework for developing a national cap-and-trade program. … This agreement shows the power of states to lead our nation addressing climate change.”

The agreement — called the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative — builds on earlier efforts by several states.

Last year, Mr. Schwarzenegger signed California legislation imposing a first-in-the-nation emissions cap on utilities, refineries and manufacturing plants, with a goal of cutting greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020. And he and British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced plans to work toward a joint emissions-trading market.

Carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels is the biggest of the greenhouse gases, so-called because they create a heat-trapping blanket when released into the atmosphere. Others are methane, nitrous oxide and synthetic gases. Many scientists say the atmosphere holds more carbon dioxide now than it has for hundreds of thousands of years.

According to a study last month by the U.S. Department of Energy, 159 coal-fired power plants are scheduled to be built in the next decade or so, generating enough power for about 96 million homes.

Mr. Hansen’s call to stop building them dovetails with an edict by the private equity group buying TXU, a massive Texas utility. The equity group, led by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Texas Pacific Group, agreed to stop plans to build eight new coal-fired power plants, not to propose new coal-fired plants outside Texas and to support mandatory national caps on emissions linked to global warming.

Mr. Hansen’s presentation said all coal-fired power plants that do not capture and bury carbon dioxide “must eventually be bulldozed [before mid-century].”

Coal provides about half of the United States’ electricity, according to the Department of Energy.

Mr. Hansen’s call “ought to be vetted by those who have an understanding of the energy demands placed on the U.S. economy,” said National Mining Association spokesman Luke Popovich. “When seen in light of those demands, then statements like that will appear unreasonable, to put it charitably.”

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