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A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999


Feature of the Month: EIA Reports

Item #d98dec33

The EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 1999 (see Reports in this issue of the Digest) elicited questions from a number of sources because it indicates that the United States will increase greenhouse-gas emissions between now and 2020 rather than decrease them as the nation agreed as a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol. Typical was the response of Alex Kirby, reporting on the BBC News on Nov. 25. He called the report “a somber warning from the world’s biggest polluter” and went on to say that the United States’ meeting its obligations under the Protocol would “almost certainly be impossible if the EIA prediction is accurate.” He quoted Robert Reinstein, a former U.S. climate negotiator, as saying that “his country could not live up to its Kyoto commitments.” Kirby pointed out that, in making its predictions, the EIA took into account the plans already made for stabilizing U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions at their 1990 levels but that it had not factored in new policies that may be introduced to meet the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol.

The EIA report on Impacts of the Kyoto Protocol (see Reports in this issue of the Digest) drew heated praise because of its perceived insights and criticism because of its perceived political nature. The report raises the specter of large increases in prices for gasoline, heating fuel, and electricity if the United States follows through with its commitment to abide by the Kyoto Protocol. This conclusion was heralded by those who oppose the United States’ participation in the Protocol, citing “a hike of up to 53 percent at the gasoline pump,” as reported by the Washington Post (Oct. 9, 1998, p. A2). The Post went on to quote “several independent economists and energy efficiency advocates who say [that the report’s] assumptions are unrealistic and its analysis seriously flawed.” Indeed, says the Post, “in projecting a range of possible economic consequences, the EIA report describes a worse-case scenario in which virtually all energy costs soar, causing an overall drop in the nation’s economic performance. [The study] assumes that a pollution tax would be imposed on greenhouse gas emissions from factories and cars [and] does not take into account a number of key policies that, if approved, could substantially offset costs for Americans.” Those key policies include emissions trading and energy-efficiency measures that could more than offset the increased costs to consumers projected in the EIA report. Why would the EIA produce a report that was open to such charges of incompleteness and bias? USA Today, in its Oct. 13 edition, said that the reason was “the result of explicit instructions from the report’s sponsor, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.” The USA Today article cited critics as saying that “the congressman ... spelled out his instructions for the report such that the costs of addressing global warming were higher than they otherwise would have been.”

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