Mr. Kiesner

Eco-Friendly Practices

Voluntary Actions, Not Mandatory Caps Needed for Climate Change Issue

By Steve Kiesner, Director of National Accounts, Edison Electric Institute

Putting a mandatory cap on the country's CO2 emissions would lead to higher energy bills for you, and it would also most likely put a cap on the economy as a whole, which would slow down your guest traffic as well. While we need to address the climate change issue, McCain/Lieberman and other legislation that imposes mandatory caps on carbon are not the way to do it. There are a variety of other measures, including improving energy efficiency, that can help the country confront the climate issue today. I urge you to tell your senators not to endorse it or any other mandatory climate bills.

The McCain-Lieberman legislation originally came up in 2003. The Senate voted 'no' then. The U.S. House of Representatives has never considered a comparable version of this legislation. Economics are a major reason why.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), here's what could happen if the McCain/Lieberman bill was passed:

Every business, home, and community should be looking for ways to protect the environment. They should also look for ways to reduce the amount of CO2 they are producing. But these kinds of mandatory caps on CO2 are not the way to do it.

Long term, technological solutions on a global scale will be needed to reduce CO2 emissions. But in the short term, voluntary measures such as using energy more efficiently can have an immediate impact. Importantly, taking steps to improve energy efficiency can benefit the bottom-line as well.

For more advice and assistance in becoming more energy efficient, I encourage you to contact the electric utility or utilities that service your company. The electric utility can often be a great resource in helping you take control over your energy use. The power company will likely have historical data about when your hotel uses energy and how your energy use has grown over the years.

Some sample, no- or low-cost electric utility energy management programs include:

Other voluntary ways hotels can reduce CO2 emissions include recycling and buying products made of recycled content, conserving water (especially hot water), purchasing renewable or 'green' power from your electric utility if it is available, and planting trees. For chain hotels with a number of properties, this last action could make a significant difference on the climate issue.

The power industry formally began its voluntary efforts to address the climate issue in 1994. More than 650 electric utilities-shareholder-owned, municipal and rural cooperative-worked through EEI and the U.S. Department of Energy to create the "Climate Challenge."

These utilities pursued a variety of voluntary actions, including improving and expanding output from nuclear and fossil fuel plants; increasing energy-efficiency and demand-side management projects; investing in efficient electric technologies, methane recovery, forestry, and fly ash reuse projects; and initiating renewable energy projects.

The efforts have paid off. In 2003 alone, these voluntary efforts reduced, avoided or sequestered an estimated 261 million metric tons of CO2 emissions-nearly two-thirds of the total reductions and offsets reported to the government that year.

Last year, the electric power industry formed Power PartnersSM to respond to President Bush's Climate VISION (Voluntary Innovative Sector Initiatives: Opportunities Now) program, which sought to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of the economy-measured as carbon-equivalent emissions per unit of economic output-by 18 percent by 2012. The Power PartnersSM agreed to cut the carbon intensity of the power sector-measured as the ratio of CO2 emissions per kilowatt-hour generated-by an equivalent of 3 to 5 percent by 2012. This reduction will be on top of the 10 percent drop in carbon intensity that has occurred since 1980, due in part to the industry's "Climate Challenge" initiative.

With the Senate expected to address the McCain/Lieberman bill and other climate legislation in the next couple of months, I urge you to ask your senators to take another approach to deal with the climate change issue. They should support Congressional legislation that promotes technology research and development; provides policy and financial incentives to encourage voluntary actions; and ensures that companies receive recognition or registration of past and future actions (via baseline protection, for example) and are not penalized for taking voluntary actions today.

Your senators should also be supporting the comprehensive energy bill now being considered in Congress. This bill encourages energy efficiency and conservation, promotes renewable energy sources, and stimulates the design and deployment of advanced nuclear technologies, clean coal technologies and hydrogen technologies aimed at reducing GHG emissions and moving America away from its dependence on foreign oil.

All these steps will move the country closer to achieving President Bush's goal of voluntarily trimming the U.S. economy's GHG intensity (amount of carbon produced per dollar of GDP) by 18 percent by 2012. Meeting this commitment will prevent 400 million metric tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases annually from entering the atmosphere. This is comparable to the average progress of the nations now participating in the Kyoto Protocol.

The hotel industry should be concerned-as every industry should-about protecting the future of our planet. Voluntary actions, not mandatory caps on CO2 emissions, are a proven way we can address the climate issue today without sacrificing our economy tomorrow.

Steve Kiesner is Director of the Edison Electric Institute’s National Accounts Program. Based in Washington, D.C., Edison Electric Institute (EEI) is the association of United States shareholder-owned electric companies, international affiliates and industry associates worldwide. Our U.S. members serve approximately 90 percent of the ultimate customers in the shareholder-owned segment of the industry, and nearly 70 percent of all electric utility ultimate customers in the nation. They generated almost 70 percent of the electricity generated by U.S. electric utilities. Mr. Kiesner can be contacted at 202-508-5000 or skiesner@eei.org Extended Bio...

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