Goals of bill to reduce carbon dioxide emissions impractical

The primary goal of cap-and-trade legislation is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. It’s really that simple. But, as someone once said, the devil is in the details. And, that saying holds true for cap and trade, too.

Steven Hayward, a Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, put pencil to paper to see whether it is even possible to meet the emission curtailment goals of the bill, H.R. 2454. The bill’s original goal was to reduce emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by the year 2050, which would be about 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2050. The House later changed the requirement to 84.5 percent of emissions in 2005 levels by 2050, but the total objective is about the same at 1.035 billion metric tons.

Carbon emissions have not been that low since 1910 when the U.S. population was 92 million people and the per capita income was about $6,000 (in current dollars). By 2050, U.S. Census Bureau projects 420 million people, which means that per capita emissions will have to fall to about 2.5 tons to meet the goal to reduce emissions by 80 percent.

“It is likely the U.S. per capita emissions were never that low — even back in colonial days when the only fuel burned was wood,” Hayward wrote.

By dissecting the American economy into residential, commercial, industrial and transportation sectors, it becomes obvious how ridiculous the goals of the Waxman-Markey bill are to achieve.

For example, currently American households emit 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide, which is 20 percent higher than the entire nation’s 80 percent reduction target by 2050!

“If households are to emit no more than their present share of carbon dioxide, emissions will have to be reduced to 204 million tons by 2050,” Hayward wrote. “But in 2050 there will be another 40 million residential households in the U.S. Today, the average residence in the U.S. uses about 10,500 kilowatt hours of electricity and emits 11.4 tons of carbon dioxide per year. To stay within the magic number, average household emissions will have to fall to no more than 1.5 tons per year.

“In our current electricity infrastructure, this would mean using no more than 2,500 kilowatt hours per year,” he noted.

“This is not enough juice to run the average hot water heater,” Hayward asserts.

Additionally, with consumption of motor fuel at 180 billion gallons, consumption must be reduced to 31 billion gallons unless a genuine carbon-neutral liquid fuel can be produced. Ethanol isn’t it,” he said

“To show how unrealistic this is, if the entire nation drove nothing but Toyota Priuses in 2050, we’d still overshoot the transportation emissions target by 40 percent,” according to Hayward’s study.

He noted that the commercial and industrial sectors would have to replace the entire fossil fuel electricity infrastructure with an energy source that does not emit carbon dioxide — a multi-trillion-dollar proposition, if it can be done at all.

Sounds like the proponents of cap and trade haven’t done their homework, because their emission goals are virtually impossible to achieve.

Alex Mills is President of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, which is the largest state oil and gas association in the nation. The opinions expressed are solely of the author.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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