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Feds to Eliminate One-Quarter of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 10 Years

WASHINGTON, DC, January 29, 2010 (ENS) – President Barack Obama today announced that the federal government will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent by 2020.

“As the largest energy consumer in the United States, we have a responsibility to American citizens to reduce our energy use and become more efficient,” said President Obama. “Our goal is to lower costs, reduce pollution, and shift federal energy expenses away from oil and towards local, clean energy.”

The emissions cuts are expected to save a total of $8 to $11 billion in avoided energy costs through 2020 and, while the White House did not mention climate change in its announcement, will avoid further contributions to global warming.

One of two urban wind power generators is installed on the roof of the Harold Washington Social Security Center in Chicago. August 2009. (Photo by Alvin Shubert)

Greenhouse gases, emitted by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, as well as by landfills and other industrial processes, blanket the Earth, trapping the Sun’s heat close to the planet.

Federal departments and agencies will achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions by measuring their current energy and fuel use, becoming more energy efficient and shifting to clean energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal.

On October 5, 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514 on Federal Sustainability, setting measureable environmental performance goals for federal agencies.

Each agency was required to submit a 2020 greenhouse gas pollution reduction target from its estimated 2008 baseline to the White House Council on Environmental Quality and to the director of the Office of Management and Budget by January 4, 2010.

The federal target announced today is the aggregate of 35 federal agency self-reported targets.

Federal agencies are already taking actions that will contribute towards achieving their targets, such as installing solar arrays at military installations, tapping landfills for renewable energy, putting energy management systems in federal buildings, and replacing older vehicles with more fuel efficient hybrid models.

A few examples:

  • The Central Intelligence Agency opened two new LEED certified buildings in Virginia that reduce annual energy and water use by more than 20 percent in one building and 40 percent in the other.
  • The Air Force Academy was selected as the Air Force’s Net Zero Energy Installation by the Departments of Defense and Energy. A planned solar array will deliver four megawatts of power to meet the academy’s needs.
  • The Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia has signed a 20 year contract to burn methane gas from a nearby landfill, providing 22 percent of its energy needs, enough energy to power 1,200 homes. This is the fourth methane-to-energy project for the Department of Defense, and the first for the Marine Corps, and will be online by 2011. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is about 20 times as potent as the more abundant carbon dioxide.
  • Fort Bliss, in Texas is aiming to be the “Army center for renewable energy” and a net-zero electricity user by 2025, producing as much energy on-site as the facility uses. The base is investing in solar, geothermal, wind, and biomass energy sources.
  • The Department of Energy entered into its largest-ever Energy Savings Performance Contract in 2009 to construct one of the largest biomass facilities in the country at the Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina. The $795 million project replaces a deteriorating, inefficient coal powerhouse and oil-fired boilers at an annual savings of $34 million. The new biomass facility is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100,000 tons per year.
  • As part of the efforts to achieve net-zero energy use at its new facility in Golden, Colorado, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is greening its data center, reducing power consumption 65 percent. Leveraging the local climate of the laboratory, the facility will use “free cooling,” which relies on energy efficient fans instead of traditional air conditioners to control the temperature.
  • The Department of Labor’s Wind River Job Corps Center in Wyoming, scheduled for completion in 2012, will train workers for employment in the renewable resources and energy fields. The building will incorporate green features, such as solar energy technology, so students can learn to maintain an environmentally-friendly facility.
  • The U.S. Postal Service constructed the largest green roof in New York City, and one of the largest in the nation, on top of its Morgan mail processing facility. The nearly 2.5 acres of native, drought tolerant vegetation on top of the seven story building saves energy and reduces stormwater runoff.
  • By upgrading its fleet over the next 10 years to highly fuel efficient or hybrid electric and plug-in vehicles, the Environmental Protection Agency will reduce gasoline consumption by almost 30 percent, and reduce the fleet’s greenhouse gas emissions by about 25 percent. Upgrading agency vehicles combined with increased use of alternative fuels and other efficiencies has the potential to reduce EPA’s fleet emissions by more than 40 percent.

As a next step, the Office of Management and Budget will validate and score each agency’s sustainability plan, assuring a long-term return on investment to the American taxpayer. To ensure accountability, annual progress will be measured and reported online to the public.

The White House said in a statement today that actions taken under this Executive Order will “spur clean energy investments that create new private-sector jobs, drive long-term savings, build local market capacity, and foster innovation and entrepreneurship in clean energy industries.”

As the single largest energy consumer in the U.S. economy, the federal government spent more than $24.5 billion on electricity and fuel in 2008 alone.

The White House says achieving the federal greenhouse gas emissions reduction target will reduce federal energy use by the equivalent of 646 trillion BTUs, equal to 205 million barrels of oil, and taking 17 million cars off the road for one year.

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