Monday, June 11, 2007

Carbon Neutrality Goes to Washington

Nancy Pelosi announced plans to make the US Capitol complex carbon neutral by the end of this session, meaning the House would remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it adds by the end of next year. Here is an excerpt of the story reported in Sign On San Diego:

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., has sponsored legislation with the long-term aim of making the entire Capitol complex, 23 buildings where some 15,000 people work, carbon neutral by 2020.
Currently the Capitol complex, which includes office buildings, the Library of Congress, the Botanic Garden and the Government Printing Office, accounts for about 316,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year, the same as 57,455 cars.
About one-third of that comes from the combustion of fossil fuels at the 97-year-old Capitol Power Plant, the only coal-burning facility in the District of Columbia.
In addition, the Government Accountability Office said in a recent report, there is not one hybrid-electric vehicle in the legislative branch fleet of more than 300 vehicles. The fleet, mostly light-duty trucks, has only 35 vehicles that use alternative fuels, although the Architect's Office has ordered that almost all newly acquired vehicles be alternative-fuel compatible.
House workers have taken the immediate step of converting 2,000 desk lamps to more efficient compact fluorescent lamps. Within six months the remaining 10,000 desk lamps will switch to CFLs, saving the House $245,000 a year in electric power costs.
House Chief Administrative Officer Daniel Beard, in a report to Pelosi, said the House side of the Capitol, which includes four large office buildings, was responsible for 91,000 tons of greenhouse gas in the fiscal year ending last September, equivalent to annual carbon dioxide emissions of 17,200 cars.
The largest source of carbon dioxide comes from the purchase of electricity. Beard said his office, working with the Architect of the Capitol, will strive to meet all electricity needs, about 103,000 megawatt-hours per year, with renewable sources. Currently, more than half the electricity Congress buys is generated by coal. Only 2 percent comes from renewable fuels.
That alone, Beard said, would eliminate 57,000 tons a year of greenhouse gas emissions, the same as removing 11,000 cars from the roads. Another 7,130 tons would be saved with plans to convert overhead ceiling lights with high-efficiency lighting and controls.
He said these steps, and others including buying energy-efficient computers and furnishings containing recycled products and installing an Ethanol-85 tank for congressional vehicles, would still leave them about 34,000 tons short of meeting the carbon neutrality goal. This could be dealt with either by buying offset credits in the domestic market or contributing a per ton payment to a “green revolving fund” where revenues received from various sources are used for energy and water conservation initiatives.
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