Can We Cut Greenhouse Gases in Half by 2050? Maybe. Maybe Not.

Posted by By at 14 September, at 07 : 02 AM Print

A National Petroleum Council report chartered by the U.S. Secretary of Energy says fossil fuel-powered engines will be the motive power for the nation’s transportation machine for the foreseeable future.

Ya think? Gasoline-powered vehicles sold this year will need gas at least 10-12 years from now to keep them tooling down the road.

But the report also suggests ways greenhouse gases may be cut significantly – not necessarily in half by 2050, as some scientists and environmental groups would like, but significantly. A large part of the reduction would be measured in pollution per mile, and compared to 2010 levels.

An EPA proposal published earlier this year calls for vehicle fleet average mileage to increase to about 54 mpg. Pickup trucks would get about 30 mpg, and 2050 models of those tiny 40 mpg gas misers on today’s roads may be squeezing as much as 65 miles from a gallon of gasoline.

Add to that $4-a-gallon and rising gas prices, without a concurrent increase in wages, and gas consumption may see a significant decrease over the next few years, which also will result in less pollution being exhaled from our communal exhaust pipe.

Electric cars also will contribute to the 54 mpg fleet average, since they do not calculate the coal, oil or natural gas required to generate electricity that silently – and admittedly cleanly, whispers them down the highway. And hydrogen fuel cells may further decrease the effluent added to the blanket of greenhouse gas being spread over our planet.

But it’s difficult to say exactly how successful we will be at reducing greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, or what other technologies, some as yet undreamt of, may also contribute to slowing the increase in our home’s temperature and easier breathing of its inhabitants.

The NPC report, released Aug. 1, says it’s difficult to know which “disruptive, yet highly uncertain, innovations” will survive the rigors of the marketplace, and demands of existing industries, to become significant contributors to pollution reduction.

“Yet despite sustained investment in technology and infrastructure, these fuel and vehicle advances are not assured,” NPC said in the report. “There are competing priorities in the pursuit of new fuel and vehicle technologies that are at once reliable, affordable, and environmentally responsible.”

But curiously, the report calls at least some of those new technologies “Disruptive Innovations,” while making recommendations for government’s role in their development.

  • It calls for government to promote sustained funding, possibly in public-private partnerships, to develop what NPC termed “Priority Technology (and) Disruptive Innovations.””
  • Government should remain “technology neutral while market dynamics drive commercialization.”
  • The federal government should take a leadership role to streamline the permitting and regulatory processes.
  • Government should consider “life-cycle uncertainties” in measuring performance and creating regulatory policies.

Some of the language contained in the NPC report is troubling; for instance, labeling as “Disruptive Innovations” technologies that would replace fossil fuels. It also seems to call for increased government funding (not necessarily a bad thing,) while “streamlining” regulations and permitting processes.

It’s worth noting the National Petroleum Council, a federally chartered and privately funded organization, comprises 189 representatives of primarily oil and gas companies and companies that support them, financial and consultant services, and electric companies.

Pardon me while I remain just a little suspicious of a consortium that recommends a public-private partnership in which the public sector provides the money and leaves it to the private sector to spend it. We rightly should contribute to development of technologies that will improve the health of the planet and we who live here.

But we should not simply throw a pile of money on the table and leave the room.

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This post was written by:
- who has written 169 posts for Rock The Capital
John Messeder is an award winning journalist with more than 35 years experience writing about education, environment and local government issues. He has lived in Maine, Florida, California and Alaska, and, by temporary turns, numerous places in between. John also is an accomplished photographer, and avid hiker, conservationist, oral history buff, and author of several books he has not yet got 'round to writing. He lives in Adams County, Pa., just over a hill from Gettysburg, with his wife and Golden Retriever. He may be contacted at - Email jmesseder

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