The Cost of Measuring Greenhouse Gases


Starting in March, the Obama Administration will make a wide range of companies report on the greenhouse gases they produce. Here's how the cost burden breaks down by industry

KEY FIGURES

$115 million: Estimated labor and capital cost of regulation to U.S. industry in the first reporting year

10,152: Estimated number of facilities that will report

85%: Portion of human-related greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. covered by the new rules

WINNERS

Companies that make so-called coriolis flow meters, used to measure emissions, stand to earn millions. Manufacturers of the devices include General Electric and Siemens.

LOSERS

Cost of implementing regulation as a percentage of sales:

— Cement and mineral production 0.8%

— Lime manufacturing 0.4%

— Waste management 0.2%

SECTORS THAT GOT A PASS*

Industries and processes excluded from the reporting requirement:

—Electronics manufacturing

—Ethanol production

—Food processing

—Sulfur hexafluoride from electrical equipment

—Underground coal mines

—Industrial landfills

—Wastewater treatment

IT COULD HAVE COST MORE

Estimated additional annual cost to U.S. industry if the EPA had required:

— Quarterly reporting: $916m

— Continuous monitoring: $115m**

— Third-party audits: $42m

MEASURING HARMFUL GAS EMISSIONS

Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and three groups of fluorinated gases are the major industrial contributors to global warming. The EPA's reporting threshold for these greenhouse gases is 25,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalents. Some gases are better than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere. For example, a given mass of methane is 21 times more effective than an equivalent measure of CO2.

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas emitted by human activities. The largest source of CO2 is fossil fuel combustion.

Methane

The agriculture sector is responsible for 6 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Methane emissions from livestock digestive processes and manure represent 32 percent of all the "man-related" methane emissions.

Nitrous Oxide

While total nitrous oxide emissions are much lower than CO2 emissions, nitrous oxide is approximately 300 times more powerful than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Emission sources include soil management and fuel combustion.

Fluorinated Gases

The global warming potential of sulfur hexafluoride is 23,900 times greater than CO2, making it the most potent fluorinated gas.

ANNUAL REPORTS

Facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons or more per year of carbon dioxide or equivalent must submit annual reports to the EPA under the new rules. 25,000 metric tons is equivalent to the emissions of:

—100 railcars of burnt coal

—4,600 passenger vehicles (per year)

—6,250 individuals' household emissions (per year)

FOR COMPARISON***

Annual emission levels of CO2 equivalents (in metric tons), reported by entities operating in California:

5m: ConocoPhillips, Energy company

8,972: Sierra Nevada Brewing, Beverage manufacturer

1,853: The Nature Conservancy, Environmental nonprofit

Notes:

* Some industries are not explicitly required to report. Facilities nevertheless must submit a report if emissions from production or fuel combustion units are 25,000 metric tons per year, CO2 equivalent, or more.

** EPA regulations allow a "hybrid" mix of continuous monitoring and estimates.

*** Voluntary reporting program, estimates for 2008, California operations only.

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