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Lieberman Warner America's Climate Security Act

(S. 2191)

A bill to direct the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a program to decrease emissions of greenhouse gases, and for other purposes. Introduced October 18, 2007.

Summary

Requires the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish:

(1) a greenhouse gas (GHG) registry; and

(2) a GHG emission allowance transfer system for covered facilities, including specified facilities within the electric power and industrial sectors and facilities that produce or entities that import petroleum- or coal- based transportation fuel or chemicals. Sets forth emission allowances for 2012-2050, with a declining cap on GHGs. Provides for selling, exchanging, transferring, submitting, retiring, or borrowing emission allowances.

Establishes:

(1) a domestic offset program to sequester GHGs in agriculture and forests; and

(2) the Bonus Allowance Account. Establishes the Carbon Market Efficiency Board, which shall observe and report on the national GHG emission market and provide cost relief measures if it determines that the market poses significant harm to the U.S. economy.

Provides for the distribution of emission allowances, including initially giving allowances to:

(1) specified owners and operators of covered facilities;

(2) states;

(3) load-serving entities that deliver electricity to retail consumers;

(4) the Secretary of Agriculture to reduce GHG emissions in the agriculture and forestry sectors;

(5) international forest protection activities; and

(6) the Emission Allowance Account for covered facilities in the electric power and industrial sectors.

Establishes in the Treasury and provides for allocations from:

(1) the Energy Assistance Fund;

(2) the Climate Change Worker Training Fund;

(3) the Adaptation Fund; and

(4) the Climate Change and National Security Fund. Establishes the Climate Change Credit Corporation to auction emission allowances.

Provides for the use of auction proceeds, including for a zero- or low-carbon energy technologies program, an advanced coal and sequestration technologies program, incentives for production of fuel from cellulosic biomass, and an advanced technology vehicles manufacturing incentive program. Amends the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to set forth provisions concerning appliance energy efficiency requirements and state building energy efficiency code updates. Requires the President to establish an interagency group to determine whether foreign countries have addressed GHGs. Directs the Administrator to establish an international reserve allowance program. Requires the proceeds from sales of such allowances to be used to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change on other countries' disadvantaged communities. Amends the Safe Drinking Water Act to require the Administrator to permit commercial-scale underground injection of carbon dioxide for purposes of geological sequestration.

Requires the Secretary of Energy to study the feasibility of the construction of:

(1) pipelines for the transportation of carbon dioxide for sequestration or enhanced oil recovery; and

(2) geological carbon dioxide sequestration facilities.

Directs the Administrator to establish a task force to study the cost implications of potential federal assumption of liability with respect to closed geological storage sites. Authorizes the President to waive this Act's requirements in a national security emergency. Requires the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to direct securities issuers to inform investors of material risks related to climate change.

(Source: Thomas)

EPA's Voluntary Climate Protection Programs

EPA Voluntary Programs Cut Emissions and Save Consumers Billions In 2005, EPA's 12 voluntary climate protection programs prevented 63 million metric tons of carbon equivalent emissions - up from 57 million in 2004, according to a new EPA report released today. Highlights of the report, "Energy Star and Other Climate Protection Partnerships 2005 Annual Report" include savings from the government's Energy Star program. Americans, with the help of Energy Star, avoided greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 23 million automobiles in 2005 €“ up from 20 million in 2004“ while saving about $12 billion on their energy bills. Americans also saved a significant amount of energy in 2005“ 150 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) €“ or about 4 percent of the total 2005 electricity demand. Other voluntary climate protection programs included in the report are the Climate Leaders Program, the Green Power Partnership, Methane Programs and initiatives that develop clean energy solutions and minimize emissions of other non-carbon dioxide gases. The report details the environmental and economic accomplishments of these programs and outlines goals for 2006 and beyond.

Copies of the "Energy Star and Other Climate Protection Partnerships 2005 Annual Report" are available by calling the Energy Star Hotline at 1-888-STAR-YES (1-888-782-7937)

Contact: Enesta Jones, (202) 564-4355

Germany Joins Methane-To-Markets

Germany has become the 18th member of the international Methane to Markets Partnership, a Bush Administration initiative that promotes the recovery and use of methane to provide clean energy. Germany's participation in the partnership will help reduce methane emissions and promote global energy security. Joint commitments under Methane to Markets help meet the shared goals of reducing global methane emissions while enhancing economic growth, promoting energy security and improving the environment. By 2015, Methane to Markets has the potential to deliver annual reductions in methane emissions equal to planting 55 million acres of trees or eliminating emissions from 33 million cars in America.

The United States has committed $53 million to this initiative over the next five years. Methane is a clean-burning fuel that is the main component of natural gas. The Methane to Markets Partnership, launched by President Bush in November 2004, is a public-private partnership to advance methane recovery and use projects in four sectors: agriculture, coal mines, landfills and oil and gas systems. Member countries work in collaboration with the private sector, multilateral development banks, and other governmental and non-governmental organizations through the partnership's project network. More than 300 organizations from around the world have made commitments to this partnership.

The 18 Countries Participating in Methane to Markets

Germany Argentina
Australia Brazil
Canada China
Colombia Ecuador
India Italy
Japan Mexico
Nigeria Russia
South Korea Ukraine
United Kingdom United States

Erin Birgfeld, (202) 343-9079/ birgfeld.erin@epa.gov

General information about Methane to Markets Partnership: http://www.epa.gov/methanetomarkets

Power Plant To Be Largest Run on Coal Mine Methane

May 2006 - - With direct assistance from EPA and other federal partners, U.S.-based engine manufacturer Caterpillar Inc. has landed a $58 million contract from China to supply the power generation equipment for the world's largest power plant fueled by coal mine methane. This project is the result of collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors through the Methane to Markets Partnership, a U.S.-led initiative that now includes 17 partner countries, including China.

The power plant will produce 120 megawatts of electricity from coalbed and coal mine methane from the Sihe mine, in addition to exhaust gas heat that will be recovered to produce usable hot water and steam for the mining operations. Once the project has been completed, an estimated 4.5 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions will be avoided each year. This is equal to emissions from one million cars annually. This project not only supports the goals of the Methane to Markets Partnership but also the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, of which China and the U.S. are members. The Asia-Pacific partnership, which was started earlier this year, promotes energy security, cuts in air pollution and the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions. The Methane to Markets Partnership was launched in November 2004 to advance cost-effective, near-term methane recovery and use as a source of clean energy. Methane is a greenhouse gas that can be used as a clean energy source. The U.S. Government is committing up to $53 million over the next five years to support the Methane to Markets Partnership. EPA has helped to facilitate this and other coal mine methane projects in China through support of the coalbed and coal mine methane clearinghouse in China, which serves as a focal point for international and domestic investors and project developers.

More information about the Methane to Markets Partnership: http://www.epa.gov/methanetomarkets

Contact:  Roxanne Smith, 202-564-4355 / smith.roxanne@epa.gov

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report Released

April 17, 2006 - -  EPA's latest report on greenhouse gas emissions, prepared for the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, shows that the United States is making progress in reducing the emissions of some critical gases as it works toward cutting our greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent by 2012.  After gathering comments from a broad range of stakeholders around the country, the agency has published the "Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks:  1990-2004."  The report analyzes the sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

The report shows that both methane and nitrous oxide emissions have decreased from 1990 levels by 10 percent and two percent, respectively. Overall, greenhouse gas emissions during 2004 increased by 1.7 percent from the previous year.  This increase, which occurred during a period of economic expansion, was due primarily to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions associated with fuel and electricity consumption. Fossil fuel combustion was the largest source of emissions, accounting for 80 percent of the total.  While the U.S. economy expanded by 51 percent from 1990 to 2004, emissions have grown by only 15.8 percent over the same period. This report is the latest in an annual set of reports that the United States submits to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change.

In preparing the official U.S. greenhouse gas inventory report, EPA leads an interagency team that includes the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Defense, the State Department, and others. The inventory team at EPA, which collaborates with hundreds of experts representing federal agencies, academic institutions, industry associations, consultants, and environmental organizations, is comprised of internationally recognized experts on greenhouse gas inventories and methods.  The team plays an integral role in fulfilling the U.S. requirements under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The "Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2004" report: http://www.epa.gov/globalwarming/publications/emissions

Contact:  Roxanne Smith, (202) 564-4355 / smith.roxanne@epa.gov (media only); Leif Hockstad, (202) 343-9432 / hockstad.leif or Lisa Hanle, (202) 343-9434 / hanle.lisa@epa.gov (all other inquiries)

India Moves from Landfill Gas to Clean Energy

March 17, 2006 - - As the third largest methane-emitting country in the world, India is working to develop clean energy sources that can yield substantial economic, environmental and health benefits for its citizens.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry are partnering with stakeholders from India's solid waste industry, finance community, and national government to capture and reuse landfill methane gas under EPA's Methane to Markets Partnership. President Bush and EPA are delivering global environmental results through innovative international collaborations.

Methane emissions from the solid waste sector in India are projected to increase significantly over the next 15 years.  Reusing landfill methane gas for energy purposes has the potential to mitigate 5.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, which is equal to the annual emissions from one million vehicles. Currently, there are no operational landfill gas-to-energy projects in India but several large sites in Delhi, Mumbai and other cities could support the clean energy projects. EPA will collaborate with India to advance project development through technical assistance, technology transfer opportunities, pre-feasibility studies, and demonstration projects.  The program will help promote clean energy, energy security, improved public health, and economic opportunities.

Methane to Markets promotes cost-effective, near-term recovery and use of methane, a greenhouse gas, as a valuable clean energy source. Four major sources of methane are targeted: landfills, underground coal mines, natural gas and oil systems and agriculture.  The partnership is a collaboration between a growing number of developed countries, developing countries, and countries with economies in transition.  The partners work with the private sector, development banks, researchers, and other organizations to develop clean energy projects. In addition to India, countries participating in Methane to Markets include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, South Korea, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Methane to Markets projects support the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, of which the United States and India are members.

To learn more about the collaboration with India, go to: http://www.epa.gov/methanetomarkets/activities.htm

For general information about Methane to Markets, visit: http://www.methanetomarkets.org

Contact:  Roxanne Smith, (202) 564-4355 / smith.roxanne@epa.gov (media only) Erin Birgfeld, (202) 343-9079 (all other inquiries)

EPA Recognizes Landfill Methane Partners For Greenhouse Gas Reductions

February 9, 2006 - - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized the latest accomplishments of landfill methane partners who have reduced emissions of methane and created renewable energy sources. EPA and its partners are taking methane waste and turning it into wealth proving that doing what's good for the environment is also good for business. Biodiesel Industries, Chester County, Pa., City of Denton, Texas, Fairfax County, Va., Granger Energy, Interface Flooring, Inc., Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Santee Cooper, and Wabash Valley Power Association received partner and project of the year awards for excellence in reducing landfill methane emissions and creating renewable energy.

EPA has assisted in the development of more than 200 landfill gas energy projects in the past 10 years.  In 2005 alone, landfill gas energy projects in the U.S. provided over 9 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and 74 billion cubic feet of gas for corporate and government end users.  The emissions reductions associated with these projects last year were equal to those from 13 million vehicles.  The energy equivalent would be powering 725,000 homes and heating 1.2 million homes.

The partners accepted the following awards at EPA's Ninth Annual Landfill Methane Outreach Program Conference and Project Expo in Baltimore.

Project of the Year:

Alternate Fuel.  Biodiesel Industries and City of Denton, Texas - Landfill gas powers a 3 million gallon biodiesel production facility at the City of Denton's landfill. The biodiesel is used to power the city's truck fleet, which is the first time landfill gas has been used in the biodiesel production process.

Project of the Year:

Electricity Production.  Santee Cooper, S.C. - Santee Cooper's second project in South Carolina will bring their landfill gas-fired capacity to almost 10 megawatts (MW), with plans for 54 MW of green power on line by 2012. Project of the Year:  Direct Use.  Chester County, Pa. and Granger Energy - Landfill gas from the Lanchester Landfill is delivered to four local companies, offsetting their reliance on natural gas and providing considerable cost savings.

Community Partner of the Year.

Fairfax County, Va. - The county uses gas from the I-95 Landfill to produce electricity, dry sludge at the wastewater treatment plant, and heat the county's facilities using infrared heaters. Energy End User Partner of the Year.  Interface Flooring Systems, Ga. - Interface added landfill gas use at its LaGrange, Ga. facility to reduce further its environmental footprint. Energy Producer Partner of the Year.  Wabash Valley Power Association, Ind. More than 4.5 percent of Wabash's customers purchase green power through their EnviroWatts program, fueled by seven landfill gas energy facilities totaling 22 megawatts.

Industry Partner of the Year.

Granger Energy - A family-owned business, Granger Energy has more than 10 projects operating in six states, saving the equivalent of more than 4 million barrels of oil. State Partner of the Year.  Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection - The state agency provides a full spectrum of technical assistance services, financial incentives, and renewable energy programs for landfill gas energy development.

EPA's Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) is a voluntary assistance and partnership program that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by supporting landfill gas energy project development.  For more information or a copy of the ninth annual conference proceedings, visit: http://www.epa.gov/lmop/awards.htm The program also assists countries throughout the world in developing landfill methane reduction projects through the US-government led Methane to Markets Partnership.

For more information on this international effort, visit: http://www.methanetomarkets.org

Contact: Roxanne Smith, 202-564-4355 smith.roxanne@epa.gov

U.S. and Australia Announce Funding To Fight Global Warming

January 12, 2006 - - The United States and Australia have pledged a combined US$127 million to an Asia Pacific plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions by promoting technologies for clean and renewable energy generation. The pledges were were made at the inaugural Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate conference in Sydney, Australia. Australia pledged 100 million Australian dollars (US$75 million) over five years and the U.S. pledged $52 million in the 2007 budget. The partnership includes the United States, Australia, Japan, China, South Korea and India. Representatives from energy and resource firms also attended the conference.

The countries at the meeting represent 45 percent of the world's population and account for nearly half of the world's gross domestic product, energy consumption and global greenhouse gas emissions.

China Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Initiated

BEIJING, December 19, 2005—Two Chinese companies today signed emission reductions purchase agreements with the World Bank’s Umbrella Carbon Facility for the largest emission reductions project on record. Through the €775 million (US$930 million) contract, the two private chemical companies, Jiangsu Meilan Chemical Co. Ltd., and Changshu 3F Zhonghao New Chemicals Material Co. Ltd, in Jiangsu Province in The   People’s Republic of China are expected to reduce emissions of about 19 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually.

The World Bank also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese Ministry of Finance for collaborating in the design and development of a Clean Development Fund (CDF), through which revenues accruing to the Government of China as a result of the sale of emission reductions will be used to support sustainable development activities.  The government of China will retain 65% of all HFC-23 revenues for investing in projects and activities related to climate change through the newly established CDF. The CDF is expected to finance climate mitigation projects in priority sectors such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, coal mine methane recovery and use.

For more information: English Chinese:

Emission Treaties
Framework Convention on

Climate Change signed by

166 nations in Rio de Janeiro

Goals but no binding limits

Berlin UN Climate

Conference Seeks

binding commitment

to Rio accord

Kyoto Protocol

amends Framework

Convention with

binding commitments

Senate Passes

Resolution by a

vote of 98-0

against Kyoto

President Bush

rejects Kyoto to

protect U.S.

economy

Kyoto Pact

Ratified by

140 nations

in Montreal

1992

1995

1997

1998

2001

2005

Clinton admin never sent treaty to Senate for ratification. The 2005 treatycommits three dozen industrialized countries to reduce emissions from 2008-2012

 

Votes on McCain/Lieberman Global Warming Bill & Senate Resolution

The Senate adopted a nonbinding resolution by a vote of 53 to 44 in June 2005 calling for a "national program of mandatory market-based limits and incentives on greenhouse gases" that would not hurt the U.S. economy and would encourage other polluting nations to follow suit.
The Senate voted 38 to 60 against the McCain/Lieberman Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2005 (S.1151) (Voted on as S.Amdt. 826 to H.R. 6 Energy Policy Act of 2005 ) on June 22, 2005 that sought to establish a mandatory federal cap on heat-trapping emissions.
The Senate voted 43 to 55 on October 30, 2003 to reject S.139, the Climate Stewardship Act of 2003, sponsored by John McCain and Joseph Lieberman.  Although the bill failed, the vote was much closer than expected and sent the message that global warming is a serious issue.  Senator John Edwards (D-NC), a cosponsor of the bill is campaigning for president and  missed the vote.

Thus, 44 senators support reductions in greenhouse gases.  The Climate Stewardship Act of 2005 will require all U.S. power plants and industries to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG).  McCain, Chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is holding hearings and intends to push the bill to the Senate floor early in the 108th Congress. McCain believes that the GHG issue affects transportation, scientific research and other related issues and should be considered by his committee. The Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2005 complements the original bill by providing subsidies for the development of new nuclear power plants.  AAEA supports the Climate Stewardship Act of 2003, the Climate Stewardship Act of 2005 and the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2005.

The Bush administration and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe oppose mandatory limits on greenhouse gases, favoring a voluntary approach. President Bush is facing a split in his own party on global warming - - at least in the Senate. The McCain-Lieberman legislation would establish a mandatory nationwide cap on emissions of carbon dioxide and other GHGs. Utilities, industries and transportation sources of the major greenhouse gases would have to limit their emissions to 2000 levels by 2010 and 1990 levels by 2016. The bill would establish a trading system allowing utilities and plants with excessive emissions to buy credits from more efficient companies that have reduced emissions beyond their targets. A similar system for sulfur dioxide has operated for years under the Clean Air Act to limit acid rain. The McCain/Lieberman bill is less stringent than the terms of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Court Rules Against Regulating Carbon Dioxide

July 15, 2005 - - In a major legal victory for the Bush administration, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled against 12 states, three cities, and more than a dozen environmental groups that had argued the EPA was obligated by the Clean Air Act to regulate CO2 emissions from cars and trucks.

United States Commitment to Address Climate Change

The United States is working domestically and internationally to address the long-term challenge of global climate change. U.S. policies are based on meeting the multiple objectives of improving energy security, promoting economic growth and development, reducing poverty, reducing traditional air pollution, and mitigating greenhouse gases.

President Bush has committed America to reducing the greenhouse gas intensity of the U.S. economy by 18 percent by 2012 – preventing the emission of more than 500 million tons of carbon over this period. A comprehensive, innovative program of domestic and climate change initiatives supports this goal.

While the United States and countries with binding emissions restrictions under the Kyoto Protocol are taking different paths, our destination is the same, and compatible with other efforts. For 2005, the United States has committed nearly $5.8 billion to address climate change:

  • Almost $2 billion for scientific research into climate change.
  • Nearly $3 billion for climate change technology research, development, and deployment.
  • Over $200 million for foreign aid programs that contribute climate change benefits.
  • Almost $700 million for renewable energy and energy efficiency through tax incentives

This budget helps fund the five cutting edge multilateral energy initiatives (The Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum; The International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy; Methane to Markets Partnership; International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor; Generation IV International Forum for Advanced Nuclear Technology) that represent technologies needed to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. It also funds the Group on Earth Observations, a major international partnership to improve our understanding of the science of climate change.

The United States has also initiated 14 bilateral climate partnerships with countries and regional organizations that along with the United States account for over 70% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. These are resulting in joint projects on climate change science, cleaner energy technologies, and policy approaches to greenhouse gases.

For further information, please see Fact sheet on U.S. Climate Change Policy (http://www.state.gov/g/oes/rls/fs/2004/38641.htm) and Fact Sheet on Bilateral and Regional Partnerships (www.state.gov/g/oes/rls/fs/2004/39438.htm

(Source: State Department)

The New Republic Online

February 14, 2004

http://www.tnr.com/docprint.mhtml?i=w050214&s=easterbrook021405

Red and Green

by Gregg Easterbrook Post date: 2.14.05

This week the Kyoto greenhouse-gas treaty goes into effect without the participation of the United States. Many Democrats and editorialists will pound the table over this--John Kerry already did so last week, at the Brookings Institution. You'll hear a reprise of outrage that George W. Bush withdrew the United States from Kyoto negotiations. Here's something you probably won't hear about: the multilateral greenhouse-gas reduction agreement George W. Bush approved a year ago. The world's first international anti-global-warming agreement to take force is not the Kyoto treaty. It is a Bush Administration initiative, and you have not heard a peep regarding the initiative because the American press corps is pretending it does not exist.

Last July, Bush announced an international agreement for global reduction in emissions of methane, the most potent of the common greenhouse gases. Discussion of action against global warming centers on carbon dioxide, which receives the bulk of attention for reasons we will get to in a moment. But molecule by molecule, methane has 23 times more atmospheric warming effect than carbon dioxide. The White House's July 2004 agreement requires the United States, United Kingdom, India, Ukraine, Mexico, and Italy to reduce global methane emissions by an amount equal to roughly one percent of all greenhouse gases released to the atmosphere by human activity. Surely you are thinking, One percent--that's not much. But the best-case outcome for the Kyoto treaty is roughly a one percent reduction in atmospheric levels of greenhouse gas.

Needless to say you've probably never seen a front-page article with a headline like, BUSH TAKES STEP TO CUT GREENHOUSE GASES. The press corps has relentlessly pretended the Bush anti-methane initiative does not exist. According to a scan of Nexis by New Republic super-intern T.A. Frank, no American newspaper put Bush's methane regulation initiative on the front page when the agreement was announced; most said nothing at all about it. Another chance to mention the initiative came in November 2004, when China, which is on a pace to pass the United States as the leading source of artificially emitted greenhouse gases, joined the anti-methane partnership. In November, Brazil, Russia, and Nigeria, a greenhouse player because of its oil industry, also joined. Again, very little notice from journalists; The Washington Post did note the development in a short article on page A24.

The press corps is pretending the anti-methane initiative does not exist in order to avoid inconvenient complications of the Black Hat versus White Hat narrative it has settled into regarding global warming. In this narrative, the White House is completely ignoring building scientific evidence of artificially triggered climate change; everything Bush does is wicked; everything the enlightened Euros do is noble. The narrative is simple and easy to follow--plus, it's pretty easy to get supporting quotes from Democratic politicians and enviros. The drawback to the narrative is that it isn't true. But why should that stop the nation's reporters and editorialists?

That Bush is not doing enough regarding the greenhouse effect is a different and plausible complaint. The administration's energy policy leaves much to be desired, especially Bush's lack of action for higher gas mileage in SUVs and pickup trucks. (Increased MPG, which should be done for economic-security reasons regardless of climate trends, means reduced greenhouse gases.) And though Bush was only doing the inevitable when he withdrew the United States as a party to the Kyoto deal--Bill Clinton never submitted the treaty, completed in 1997, to the Senate because he knew Kyoto stood no chance of ratification--the president handled the decision poorly, offending European governments. But the notion that Bush has done nothing at all about greenhouse gases can only be sustained if you ignore what he has done. It's understandable that Democrats and enviros pretend Bush has taken no action; they have a self-interest in this pretense. Editors and editorialists should give credit where due.

For years analysts have been pointing out that methane, being much more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, ought to be the first target of global-warming action. I know for sure that smart, dashingly handsome, cutting-edge types knew about this, since there's a section on this point in my 1995 book A Moment on the Earth, and I wrote about the promise of methane reduction in this 2000 New York Times article. In that same year, one of the preeminent climate analysts, James Hansen of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, published this paper arguing that an anti-methane initiative might buy the world a couple of decades in which to find a solution to the larger problem of carbon emissions. When Hansen's work was misinterpreted as an argument that methane reduction would make carbon reduction unnecessary, he published this clarification. Because carbon dioxide is emitted in far larger quantities than methane, there is no probable future scenario that does not include substantial global action against carbon emissions. (There are only unlikely future scenarios such as a natural decline in temperatures, which might make us decide not to worry about greenhouse emissions.) Hansen's point was simply that the best bang for the buck lies in going after methane first.

Here's the beauty of the idea: Unlike carbon emissions, which are unavoidable with current technology, most methane emissions could be zeroed out without the slightest economic disruption. Methane is the principal compound in natural gas. Artificially emitted methane comes in roughly equal shares from agriculture, mainly rice cultivation; energy production, mainly leaks in natural-gas pipelines; and waste disposal, mainly landfill decomposition. (Cow methane, a staple of bad jokes, is real but statistically less important than the other categories.) A considerable share of methane emissions is waste. Keep the methane in the pipes and you've not only reduced a greenhouse gas, you have a commodity that can be sold. Capture the methane from the landfills and, again, you've not only reduced a greenhouse gas, you have a commodity that can be sold.

Yet reporters who write reams about carbon dioxide rarely mention methane, and some environmentalists become actively upset when the potential for methane reduction is raised. Why? Because the United States is the world's number-one emitter of carbon dioxide. (At least for the moment; if current trends hold, China will pass us.) Keeping the focus on carbon dioxide is the blame-America-first strategy. The European Union, on the other hand, is a leading emitter of methane, given the natural-gas energy economies of many Western European nations. Talk about methane reduction makes Europe uneasy. In the regnant global warming narrative, the United States is always bad and the European Union is always good. Raising the methane issue complicates that narrative.

Here's what Bush' s initiative calls for. The president has approved $53 million over the next five years to research ways to cut global methane emissions by 50 million metric tons of "carbon equivalent," the cumbersome term used for global warming calculations. The goal represents a roughly one percent global reduction in "carbon equivalent" emissions. But considering that greenhouse gases have been rising almost uninterrupted since the mid-1800s, the first reduction might represent the small step that starts the long journey. (Kyoto's modest percentage goal can be defended in the same way--we've got to start somewhere, and small successes may open the door to larger ambitions.)

Developing-world officials have shown little interest in greenhouse gas reduction, since they have more urgent concerns and worry that Western nations are promoting global-warming fears in order to slow the development of the South. This is not the motive, nor need clean-energy systems slow development, but the worry is a real psychological factor, especially in India and China. Bush negotiators from the EPA and the little-recognized Council on Environmental Quality--which in the last four years has gotten scant press recognition for its excellent work on issues including diesel-pollution reduction--convinced developing nations to sign on to methane reduction by pointing out the beauty of the plan: that capturing methane creates a valuable product that can be sold.

Administration officials gave the program a clunker name, Methane to Markets, which says nothing about greenhouse gas reductions; the deal needed a name as classy as the Kyoto Protocol. But as Kyoto draws all the headlines, an American-led international effort has preceded it and is already seeking international reduction in artificially emitted global-warming gases. Maybe it is unrealistic to expect Democrats and enviros to cite Bush's achievement. It would be nice if the press corps would at least report what has happened.

Gregg Easterbrook is a senior editor at TNR and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution.