Reducing oil dependence. Strengthening energy security. Creating jobs. Tackling global warming. Addressing air pollution. Improving our health. The Union of Concerned Scientists has outlined a US national blueprint for a clean energy economy.
Reducing oil dependence. Strengthening energy security. Creating jobs. Tackling global warming. Addressing air pollution. Improving our health. The United States has many reasons to make the transition to a clean energy economy. What we need is a comprehensive set of smart policies to jump-start this transition without delay and maximize the benefits to our environment and economy. Climate 2030: A National Blueprint for a Clean Energy Economy (“the Blueprint”) answers that need.
To help avoid the most dangerous consequences of climate change, ranging from extreme heat, droughts, and storms to acidifying oceans and rising sea levels, the United States must play a lead role and begin to cut its heat-trapping emissions today—and aim for at least an 80 percent drop from 2005 levels by 2050. Blueprint policies lower U.S. heat-trapping emissions to meet a cap set at 26 percent below 2005 levels in 2020, and 56 percent below 2005 levels in 2030.
The nation achieves these deep cuts in carbon emissions while saving consumers and businesses $464 billion annually by 2030. The Blueprint also builds $1.7 trillion in net cumulative savings between 2010 and 2030. Blueprint policies stimulate significant consumer, business, and government investment in new technologies and measures by 2030. The resulting savings on energy bills from reductions in electricity and fuel use more than offset the costs of these additional investments. The result is net annual savings for households, vehicle owners, businesses, and industries of $255 billion by 2030.
Under the Blueprint, every region of the country stands to save billions. Households and businesses—even in coal-dependent regions—will share in these savings.
Climate 2030 Blueprint Policies
Foremost is a well-designed cap-and-trade program, which would put a price on carbon emissions that reflects the costs of global warming. This must be coupled with strengthened efficiency standards, incentives, and public investment in clean technologies and infrastructure. A carbon tax could also be part of the solution, but it would not guarantee the necessary level of emissions reductions without an emissions cap in place.
• Economywide cap-and-trade program with:
• Auctioning of all carbon allowances
• Recycling of auction revenues to consumers and businesses to benefit the public good, including investing in clean and renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency measures, and compensating low income families and those disproportionately affected by climate disruptions
• Limits on carbon “offsets” to encourage “decarbonization” of the
• Flexibility for capped businesses to over-comply with the cap
and bank excess carbon allowances for future use
Industry and Buildings Policies
• An energy efficiency resource standard requiring retail electricity
and natural gas providers to meet efficiency targets
• Minimum federal energy efficiency standards for specific appliances
• Advanced energy codes and technologies for buildings
• Programs that encourage more efficient industrial processes
• Wider reliance on efficient systems that provide both heat and power
• R&D on energy efficiency
• A renewable electricity standard for retail electricity providers
• R&D on renewable energy
• Use of advanced coal technology, with a carbon-capture-and-storage
demonstration program, including careful selection and storage of geologic sequestration sites and regulatory mechanisms to prevent CO2 leakage and groundwater contamination. This is not proven to be financially viable nor environmentally effective, but is part of the UCS recommendations because of the reality that coal is not going away soon.
• Standards that limit carbon emissions from vehicles and increase fuel economy
• Standards that require the use of low-carbon fuels
• Requirements for deployment of advanced vehicle technology
• Smart-growth policies that encourage mixed-use development,
with more public transit, reducing vehicle miles traveled
• Smart-growth policies that tie federal highway funding to more
efficient transportation systems
• Pay-as-you-drive insurance and other per-mile user fees
Beyond the Climate 2030 Blueprint: Technologies for the Future
The analysis did not include several renewable energy and transportation sector technologies that are at an early stage of development, but offer promise. These include:
• Thin film solar
• Biopower with carbon capture and storage
• Advanced geothermal energy
• Wave and tidal power
• Renewable energy heating and cooling
• Advanced storage and smart grid technologies
• Dramatic expansion of all-electric cars and trucks
• High-speed electric rail
• Expanded public transit-oriented development
• Breakthroughs in third-generation biofuels