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EPA Moving on U.S. Greenhouse Gas Registry: Next Step, Global CARMA


This is a joint posting with Robin Kraft, and originally appeared on the Center for Global Development’s Global Development: Views from the Center blog

Nearly two years after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine whether greenhouse gases (GHGs) pose a threat to peoples’ health or welfare – the first step toward regulation — the EPA this week issued a draft rule on a national GHG registry:

In general, EPA proposes that suppliers of fossil fuels or industrial greenhouse gases, manufacturers of vehicles and engines, and facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons or more per year of GHG emissions submit annual reports to EPA.

This is an important step forward: you can’t manage what you don’t measure. But merely collecting the data won’t be enough. Similar reporting requirements have applied to U.S. power plants since 1996 and, in theory at least, the information has been publicly available. But actually using that data is anything but straightforward. The U.S. government is not alone in failing to make this data easily accessible: in Europe, a cottage industry has sprung up to make sense of data from the EU’s Emissions Trading System.

Two years ago, CGD launched Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA.org) to address the urgent need for globally consistent, reliable data on emissions, starting with the power sector, which accounts for about a quarter of all emissions worldwide. CARMA provides information on the reported or estimated emissions of some 50,000 power plants around the world, plus plant ownership and aggregated firm-level emissions through Google Maps, Google Earth, an application programming interface (API), and spreadsheets. CARMA uses government-collected plant-level emissions data whenever we can find it, including in the United States, EU and India. Not surprisingly, the numbers get a lot more attention and use on CARMA than when they are buried in a hard-to-find and hard-to-use government spread sheets.

Ultimately, for the world to get a grip on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, verified up-to-date information on where the emissions come from will be crucial, not only for the power sector but also for industrial processes (cement plants are a major source), land use change (both deforestation and agriculture), livestock, transportation and commercial and residential buildings. This global monitoring effort will be larger than anything we at CGD expect to be able to provide. It is urgently needed and should be among the commitments that nations make at the international climate conference in Copenhagen in December. A plan by Cisco and NASA to design a monitoring system called “Planetary Skin” is a welcome development and we look forward to hearing more about it.

Until such a system is up and running, the additional data that will come from the EPA and other government reporting efforts will be a boon to CARMA and other non-governmental public information disclosure exercises. And we hope that CARMA will be a useful example of the importance and power of making the data readily accessible in a form that people can use.

Here’s an example of the power of CARMA to yield valuable information. The proposed EPA rule will apply to U.S. facilities that produce more than 25,000 tons per year of the six leading greenhouse gases, an estimated 13,000 facilities that account for 85-90 percent of total U.S. emissions. A few clicks on CARMA revealed that there are 9,473 power plants in the United States, but only 1,743 of these have emissions of more than 25,000 tons. The good news? These 1,743 plants account for more than 99 percent of U.S. power plant emissions.

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Reader Comments

Lawrence-

It will be great if the forthcoming reporting data allows CARMA to expand and stay timely.

And, frankly, if the new EPA system does not have open APIs to encourage data reuse and application development, CARMA may have a key role to play for a long time!

FYI – a different project along these lines is a global energy system open database being developed by researchers at Los Alamos National Lab. What is interesting is the collaborative nature of it – many parties can log on to play a role in filling in the data. See my blog post on this:
http://tinyurl.com/d7dmv8

Chris Wolz

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Just last year, I was complaining to colleagues about how there wasn’t a list of power plants in Europe.

I just found this site today and am completely impressed. You also have a great policy of allowing the data to be accessed easily.

Thank you for the data (which will be used for academic research purposes). I will let CARMA know how the data will be used.

Thanks

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http://earthship.com/copenhagen-video

Michael Reynolds shares his experiences from being at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.
“I just read this executive order copy from the governor of california, Arnold Schwarzenegger about Sea Levels rising, etc.

It is not out of the question that this method be used to move forward in todays world. It is clear that nothing tangible will happen here in Copenhagen between all the countries to effect climate …change.

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It is pleasant to see someone writing who has an idea of what they are writing about. Too many just write green stuff with little or no thought involved.

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I would say I admire your site, it really brings users a great atmosphere to comment.

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