November 16, 2005

US to push at UN meeting for voluntary carbon cuts

By Chris Baltimore

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration will use a
United Nations climate change meeting in Canada to tout a
voluntary plan to store heat-trapping gases underground, an
Energy Department official said on Wednesday.

Environmental groups said the administration will try to
derail any attempt at the Montreal meeting to set mandatory
targets to extend the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012, when its
first phase ends.

Kyoto requires developed nations to cut emissions of
greenhouse gases by 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2008-2012.
Carbon dioxide is one of several gases blamed for climate
change that is melting glaciers and raising sea levels.

The United States, the world's biggest emitter of
greenhouse gases, shunned the Kyoto pact, saying it would be
too costly to the U.S. economy.

The White House prefers a voluntary, multi-national plan to
sequester and store carbon dioxide. The plan would include most
European Union nations, India and Saudi Arabia.

It would encourage nations to separate carbon dioxide from
industrial emissions and pipe it into geologic formations or
deep beneath the ocean floor for permanent storage, an Energy
Department official said.

The U.N. meeting is "an important moment for this
technology -- we are hopeful it would be endorsed in Montreal,"
said Mark Maddox, the deputy assistant secretary of energy. He
declined to say what form such an endorsement would take.

Officials from some 150 countries will meet in Montreal on
November 28 to discuss how to curb greenhouse gas emissions
when the first phase of the Kyoto treaty ends.

Montreal could provide a crucial start of negotiations for
a new round of emission cuts, according to environmental
groups. But "the United States wants to block this process from
starting," said David Doniger, a climate change expert at the
Natural Resources Defense Council.

"Look for the U.S. to use a variety of strategies to try to
veto consensus," Doniger said, such as lining up Middle Eastern
OPEC countries and India in favor of voluntary approaches.

A major source of greenhouse gases comes from burning
fossil fuels like crude oil and coal.

"There's got to be a better and cheaper way to do this"
than mandatory cuts envisioned by Kyoto, said John Grasser, an
Energy Department spokesman. "That's why sequestration is
taking off -- it might be our ace in the hole."

Doniger said he is "bullish" on sequestration technology,
but it must be accompanied by specific carbon cuts.

The federal government should give U.S. utilities
incentives to capture carbon emissions from coal-fired power
plants, and introduce a cap-and-trade system similar to one
being used in the European Union, Doniger said.

Sequestration projects have been shown to work. Some 5
million tons of carbon dioxide were successfully stored in a
oilfield in Canada while doubling the field's crude oil
recovery rate in a multinational project.

"The pieces are all there," said Peter Rozelle, an Energy
Department engineer. "It's just a matter of putting them all

The Energy Department also touts a $1 billion plan to build
FutureGen, a sophisticated plant that would burn low-emission
gasified coal and store carbon dioxide gases underground.
Several U.S. utilities, including American Electric Power, are
working with the government to build the plant.

U.S. lawmakers' attempts to require cuts in American
emissions have repeatedly failed in Congress.