NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 20, 2009

The new Boxer-Kerry Senate bill would require a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020.  As a practical matter, what would such a reduction mean to us and our economy, asks Pete du Pont, Chairman of the Board for the National Center for Policy Analysis and a former governor of Delaware?

According to Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute:

  • A 20 percent reduction would mean cutting America's greenhouse gas emissions to our 1977 levels, and that would radically change both the U.S. economy and our personal lives.
  • We had 220 million people in America then; today we have 305 million.
  • In 1977 our economy produced $7.2 trillion (in 2008 dollars); today it is twice as large, at $14.2 trillion.
  • Back then we had 145 million vehicles on the road; today we have 251 million.

America has substantially grown, and our energy needs have grown as well, says du Pont.  So what would we have to do get back to 1977 emission levels and meet the Boxer-Kerry requirement?  First, car and truck miles traveled would have to be reduced by one-third (or fuel efficiency improved by one-third, hard to do in 10 years), which would seriously reduce travel and transportation, and likely force changes in automobile design that consumers would not like.

Next, the amount of coal burned to generate electricity would have to be cut in half:

  • So we would close more than 200 of our coal-fired power plants, and as Hayward says that would reduce our electricity supply by some 800 million megawatts.
  • To replace those millions of megawatts with non-hydro renewable power sources like wind, solar and geothermal power would be virtually impossible.
  • We have about 130,000 megawatts generated by them now, and the growth rate of these power sources over the last five years suggests it would take 97 years to make up for the shutdown of 200 coal-fired plants.

Boxer-Kerry would expand the control the government has over the American economy, businesses and individuals.  It would have little impact on reducing global warming but would significantly depress our economy, says du Pont.

Source: Pete du Pont, "Time for Inaction on Global Warming," Online Journal, October 20, 2009.

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