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NAFTA Commission says Planned Expansion of Electricity Plants Means More Pollution

by Tom Cohen, Associated Press
Environmental News Network, November 28, 2001

(Carole Swinehart) Coal-burning power plants, like this one near the U.S.-Canadian border in Michigan, emit pollutants that affect both nations. TORONTO Bush administration plans for hundreds more electricity generating plants will substantially increase emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, a North American environment commission said Monday.

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation, which monitors the environmental affects of the North American Free Trade Agreement, estimated carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. electricity sector could increase from 14 percent to 38 percent by the year 2007. Emissions from the electricity sector now account for 35 percent of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.

The commission called for better coordination of environmental policies among NAFTA members Canada, Mexico, and the United States to prevent increasing electricity production from bringing jumps in harmful emissions, executive director Janine Ferretti told a telephone news conference.

The commission is hosting a symposium in San Diego this week on the North American integrated electricity market. It believes uncoordinated policies among the three countries could create pollution havens in North America, harm efforts to decrease overall pollution, and contribute to trade disputes.

Under the U.S. energy policy first outlined by Vice President Dick Cheney, building hundreds of new plants would be the preferred way to meet growing energy needs. Shifting from coal plants, the most polluting form of electricity generation, to natural gas and nuclear plants would help hold down increases in unwanted emissions, according to the U.S. policy.

However, increased production in the U.S. market since deregulation came more from coal plants, according to Paul Miller, one of the authors of a commission study.

Findings from Miller's study are contrary to goals of the Kyoto Protocol, which has been rejected by the United States as harmful to the U.S. economy.

Delegates from 165 countries recently agreed to rules that would put the 1997 Kyoto agreement into effect. The protocol obliges industrialized countries to cut or limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases blamed for global warming by an average 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2012.

Countries may offset the requirements by properly managing forests and farmlands that absorb carbon dioxide, known as carbon sinks. They can earn further credits by helping developing countries avoid carbon emissions.

To take force, the accord must be ratified by 55 countries responsible for 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. With the United States not participating, ratification by virtually all other industrial countries is essential to meet that target.

Canada, which supports the Kyoto agreement but has yet to ratify it, announced Monday it would spend more than $280 million on new measures intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Tom Cohen, Associated Press
NAFTA Commission says Planned Expansion of Electricity Plants Means More Pollution
Environmental News Network, November 28, 2001

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