Now we get into the nitty gritty: the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed including additional sectors in the greenhouse gas reporting rule that it issued last fall. That rule covered approximately 10,000 individual facilities in 31 source categories. Together these account for about 85% of all greenhouse gases generated in the U.S. but left out some important sources. The new proposal targets methane and fluorinated gases, two potent greenhouse gases. It covers several industry categories including petroleum and natural gas systems, processes involving fluorinated gases, and facilities that inject or store carbon dioxide underground.
The goal of all this the record-keeping is to get a more precise accounting of where greenhouse gas emissions are coming from, which in turn will help lead to more effective programs for reducing them. Think that’ll work? The downward spiral of water consumption per capita in the U.S. provides some interesting clues.
U.S. EPA and Greenhouse Gas Reporting
The greenhouse gas reporting system covers carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and other fluorinated gases. Aside from the fossil fuel industry, the main sources included in the rule as issued last fall are various production facilities and factories including vehicle and engine, aluminum, glass, cement, iron, steel, pulp,and paper. Municipal landfills are also included but due to difficulty in collecting data emissions from various agricultural sources are not included (yet), such as rice production and greenhouse gas emissions from cows.
The Proposed Additional Greenhouse Gas Reporting Sectors
The proposed additional sectors were actually put up for consideration last spring when the rule was first introduced, but in response to public comments EPA put them aside when issuing the final rule last fall. Many of the comments had to do with resolving logistical issues and cost issues, or with avoiding the unnecessary duplication of reports. Several other sectors that were also proposed last spring are still unresolved. One of the remaining sectors is coal suppliers, and a number of comments on that issue questioned EPA’s legal authority for requiring carbon dioxide reporting from coal facilities. If you’re interested, detailed summaries of the public comments are in the Federal Register, Section III of the preamble to the Greenhouse Gases Reporting Rule (pdf). The comments on suppliers of coal appear in item KK, page 56341.
Greenhouse Gas Reporting and Water Conservation
Unlike greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption has been measured and monitored quite closely for a long time (the U.S. Department of the Interior keeps track), and a remarkable trend has emerged. Even though the U.S. population increased by 30% and individual household water use rose, nationwide water use has been stable and even declined somewhat over the past 25 years. With statistics in hand, DOI was able to pinpoint where the savings come from: increased efficiency in the electrical generation and agricultural sectors, which account for about 80% of U.S. water usage. Referring to the report, a DOI official has stated that “…if we want to understand and address the nation’s current water issues and prepare to answer future water questions, we need the data…” Substitute greenhouse gases for water and there you have an indication of how much we can learn from more accurate information about greenhouse gas emissions.
Image: Tailpipe by Rishabh Mishra on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.