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Fast Lane

As of this writing it remains for Russian President Vladimir Putin to sign off on the Kyoto Protocol to set the 1997 treaty in force next year with an aim to reduce global greenhouse gas production approximately 5 percent by 2012.

Russia is taking bows for ratifying the treaty while the U.S. has so far refused to do the same. Six greenhouse gases are targeted by the protocol but CO2 is the most contentious since it is naturally occurring in all organic chemistry processes and also exhaled in the respiration cycle of mankind and animal life.

In the right amount, CO2 is just part of nature. It is simply its overabundance that turns it into the unwelcome evil twin.

Behind the motivation for Russia to sign the accord is the opportunity to sell greenhouse gas credits to other nations bound by the accord. The Kyoto accord uses the year 1990 as the baseline for control of emissions.

Industrial activity drives greenhouse gas production and the Russian economy is currently a shadow of what it was back then.

Thus it will have lots of credits, something approaching 500 million tons per year of CO2, to sell, or trade to countries that will help them rebuild their economy with efficient new power plants.

Russia has the additional motivation that the European Union has promised to vote Russia into the World Trade Organization if it signed the Kyoto Protocol.

The great irony is that CO2 emissions stand to actually rise from current levels as other nations soak up Russia’s credits and put them to work. Little if anything will be gained. But I guess we have to look past little inconsistencies like that.

Baseline greenhouse gas production in the U.S. is just over 5 billion tons annually, about 36 percent of the global total.

The U.S. has backed away from the protocol saying that since it doesn’t apply to developing countries like China, India, Mexico, all of Africa and South America, that it becomes a real handicap to growth for developed countries like the U.S.

Even though Russia is aboard for different reasons, I think the clock is now running on U.S. participation. It looms too large in the global picture to remain on the sideline. This will surely be an ongoing issue and the U.S. can’t lose its position in helping achieve progress on this front.

Since greenhouse gas production is largely a function of energy consumption and industrial activity, each sector will come under close scrutiny. The transportation sector is certainly a towering contributor. Consider that the average gasoline automobile produces 11,500 pounds per year of CO2 and the average light truck about 16,000 pounds.

Put a diesel in those vehicles and you will save 4,000 pounds of CO2 for each car and 5,600 for each truck. Doesn’t that sound like something we want to do?

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Tue. July 23rd, 2024

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