Obama Orders Government To Slash GHG Emissions 28%

by | Jan 29, 2010

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obama12910President Obama has ordered the government, the largest consumer of energy in the U.S., to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 28 percent by 2020.

The move follows President Obama’s signing of Executive Order 13514 in October, which set environmental performance goals for federal agencies.  Each agency was required to submit a 2020 GHG pollution reduction target from its estimated 2008 baseline to the White House Council on Environmental Quality and to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget by January 4, 2010.  The 28% target announced today is the aggregate of those 35 federal agency self-reported targets.

By June, each federal agency must send the White House Office of Management and Budget a sustainability plan, the New York Times reports. The OMB will validate and score each agency’s sustainability plan. Annual progress will be measured and reported online to the public.

The federal government, which occupies nearly 500,000 buildings, operates more than 600,000 vehicles, employs more than 1.8 million civilians, and purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods and services, spent more than $24.5 billion on electricity and fuel in 2008 alone.  Achieving the federal GHG pollution reduction target will reduce federal energy use by the equivalent of 646 trillion BTUs, equal to 205 million barrels of oil, and taking 17 million cars off the road for one year.  This is also equivalent to a cumulative total of $8 to $11 billion in avoided energy costs through 2020, according to the White House.

To reach the goal, federal departments and agencies will measure current energy and fuel use, increase energy efficiency and shift to clean energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal.

Nancy Sutley, Chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said that she believes most of the program is already paid for, the Times article reports. Stimulus funding has lead to an increase in government efficiency projects. Federal agencies spent more than $1.7 billion last year on energy-efficiency projects – an increase of 80 percent over 2008. About two-thirds of the investments were paid for with appropriated dollars, primarily from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, with the remainder financed by private-sector financing arrangements, such as Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) and Utility Energy Services Contracts (UESCs). Under these programs, contractors pay for renovations upfront and are paid back over time with cost savings that result from reduced energy consumption. But ESPCs have their drawbacks – projects funded through ESPCs cost nearly 2 1/2 times what they would cost if funded through direct appropriations.

Executive Order 13514 calls for a 30% reduction in vehicle fleet petroleum use by 2020, 26% improvement in water efficiency by 2020, 50% recycling and waste diversion by 2015, 95% of all applicable contracts will meet sustainability requirements;

The order won’t affect combat operations, excluding more than 60% of the DOD’s greenhouse gas emissions such as jet fuel for planes and diesel for tanks, The Wall Street Journal reports, pointing out that the DOD’s energy consumption represents more than three-quarters of the federal government’s total energy budget.

But the DOD is making cuts in other areas. Earlier this week it was announced that the United States Air Force has entered into a partnership with Fotowatio Renewable Ventures of San Francisco to lease part of the Edwards Air Force Base for a massive solar array with an estimated production capacity of up to 500 megawatts.

The Army has set a goal of cutting GHG emissions 30 percent.

The U.S. Navy reduced its overall energy consumption level by 12 percent in 2008 with projects centered on wind energy generation, solar photovoltaic systems, geothermal systems and ocean thermal energy conversion at military bases primarily in California.

Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus recently announced five energy targets for the Navy and Marine corps, of which biofuels is a major component.

In 2007, President Bush issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to reduce their overall energy use by three percent annually through 2015 and to cut water consumption two percent annually over the same period. It mandates that agencies expand procurement programs focusing on environmentally friendly products, including bio-based products.

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