Government policies and technological progress in the US are creating opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while delivering net economic benefits, according to analysis by World Resources Institute.
Emerging technologies could help the US achieve deeper reductions even faster with targeted policy support, according to Seeing Is Believing: Creating a New Climate Economy in the United States.
WRI’s latest report builds on Better Climate, Better Growth: The New Climate Economy Report, produced by the New Climate Economy, which found that global economic growth and tackling climate change can be achieved together.
WRI’s new study provides additional insights by analyzing low-carbon actions, policies and programs that are delivering economic benefits in the US.
Seeing is Believing focuses on five areas of opportunity that combined account for over half of the US’ carbon footprint:
- Reducing carbon intensity of electric generation
- Improving electric end-use efficiency
- Building cleaner, more fuel-efficient passenger vehicles
- Reducing waste from natural gas systems
- Reducing consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
The report says curbing emissions from these areas is critical to achieve the US target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and go further in the years beyond.
Some key findings:
- New natural-gas-fired power plants already cost between 19 to 44 percent less than new coal-fired power plants.
- In many states and regions, renewable energy is becoming cheaper than building new coal plants. Renewable energy is even cheaper than natural gas plants in some parts of the country.
- Increased renewable energy generation has the potential to save American ratepayers tens of billions of dollars a year over the current mix of electric power options amounting to savings of $83-241 per person per year, according to studies by Synapse Energy Economics and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
- Since the implementation of federal fuel economy and CO2 standards for cars and light-duty trucks, the number of vehicles with a fuel economy of 40 miles per gallon or more has increased sevenfold.
- By 2025 vehicles will be roughly twice as efficient as those sold today while saving owners $3,400 to $5,000 over their vehicle’s lifetime.
- Battery prices for electric vehicles have fallen by 40 percent since 2010. Long-range electric vehicles may become cost competitive with internal-combustion-engine vehicles by the early 2020s, even without federal tax incentives.
Natural Gas Systems
- Recent standards to reduce methane leaks are expected to save industry millions of dollars per year, while reduced air pollution will have substantial health benefits.
- Methane emissions can be reduced by 25 percent or more through measures that pay for themselves in three years or less, and even deeper reductions are possible at just a few cents per thousand cubic feet of gas.
- Many companies around the world—including General Motors, Coca-Cola, Red Bull, and Heineken— have already cut energy costs substantially by switching to safer and cheaper alternatives to HFC refrigerants.
- The US can reduce HFC emissions by over 40 percent from what would otherwise be emitted in 2030 at a negative or break-even price today.
Seeing is Believing also provides recommendations in each of the five areas to deliver additional economic gains through long-term policy certainty for businesses and investors via standards, carbon pricing, or other mechanisms; driving technological improvements through research and development; and providing a better investment environment for new technologies.