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US stimulus would cut climate emissions: report

  Energy efficiency and conservation proposals in President Barack Obama’s original economic stimulus plan would cut climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions by 61 million tons a year, a new report says.

That would be equivalent to eliminating the greenhouse gas emissions from electricity used in 7.9 million US homes or taking 13 million cars off the road, the analysis of the recovery plan’s carbon footprint found on Thursday. The report was commissioned by the environmental group Greenpeace and produced by climate and energy consulting firm ICF International.

The report analyzed only the parts of Obama’s initial January 20 blueprint for economic recovery where the decrease in carbon dioxide emissions could be quantified, Kert Davies of Greenpeace said in a telephone interview. Many parts of that blueprint were incorporated in the first measure proposed by the US Congress and currently being debated on Capitol Hill, with the total cost of the package passing $800 billion.

“The fact that the federal government could spend so much money and actually help slow global warming means we’ve really turned the page as a country,” Davies said. “This is a real sign that we’re starting to move beyond the era of fossil fuels.”

Obama has emphasized that any plan for economic recovery must include investments in alternative fuels and ways to reduce greenhouse emissions, especially carbon dioxide emitted by coal-fired power plants and petroleum-fueled vehicles, among other sources. That is in line with a set of principles released this week by Senator Barbara Boxer, the Senate’s top environmental lawmaker.

The California Democrat called for a market-based cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions, with revenues expected to help consumers make the transition to clean energy and new technologies. Of the $52 billion in the original stimulus plan set aside for energy spending, the report was able to figure the carbon footprint for about $24 billion to arrive at the 61 million tons in annual emissions reductions.

For $30 billion aimed at transportation, it depends on how this is spent: if it all goes to construct new highways, encouraging sprawl and attracting more cars, the report said this would result in 10 to 50 times the greenhouse pollution compared to spending this money on road repairs and light rail mass transit.

Davies noted that the annual reduction of 61 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions is just 1% of total US emissions, but he considered this a significant return for the stimulus investment.

National Review Online, a conservative Web site, faulted the stimulus plan’s renewable energy proposals: “While some programs would spend lavishly on technologies that are proven failures, others would spend too little to make a difference.” (Reuters)