The Morning News
Local News for Northwest Arkansas
Global Warming Commission approves final revisions to report
By John Lyon
THE MORNING NEWS
LITTLE ROCK -- The Arkansas Governor's Commission on Global Warming on Thursday approved final revisions to its report containing 54 recommendations for reducing the state's contributions to climate change.
The 21-member commission was created by an act of the Legislature last year and is required to present its final report to Gov. Mike Beebe and legislators no later than Nov. 1.
The commission's report recommends that Arkansas adopt goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions below 2000 levels by 20 percent by 2020, 35 percent by 2025 and 50 percent by 2035.
The commission includes representatives of several fields, including conservation, industry, government and academia. The panel approved some recommendations unanimously, but it was divided on some votes, including an 11-10 decision to recommend a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants in the state until technology to capture and store carbon emissions becomes available.
The committee approved a final set of revisions to the report during a meeting Thursday held by conference call. Committee Chairman Rep. Kathy Webb, D-Little Rock, thanked the members for their work.
"I know people have very strong opinions about all of these issues," Webb said. "We did a really fine job. Thank you all for all the time that you've given in the last year on this."
In a period allowed for public comments, Ken Smith, executive director of Arkansas Audubon, told the commission, "Congratulations, all of you, for a great job."
Among the revisions the commission approved Thursday was a slight change to an assertion in the report that peer-reviewed literature is "unanimous" in concluding that human activity is causing climate change. The commission changed "unanimous" to "virtually unanimous."
Steve Cousins, vice president of refining for Lion Oil, said although no vote was taken on whether global warming has a human cause, he knew of "at least three commissioners that are agnostic" on the issue.
The report states that Arkansas' greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than those of the nation as a whole, according to research conducted for the commission by the nonprofit Center for Climate Strategies. From 1990 to 2005, gross emissions in the state increased by 30 percent while national gross emissions rose by 16 percent.
On a per-capita basis, the state's emissions increased by about 10 percent between 1990 and 2005, while national per-capita emissions decreased by 2 percent.
The report notes that Arkansas has large forests which negate some of its greenhouse gas emissions. In 2005, the state's gross emissions accounted for 1.2 percent of national gross emissions, while its net emissions accounted for 1 percent of national net emissions.
Electricity consumption and transportation were the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Arkansas in 2005, accounting for 32 percent and 26 percent, respectively, of the state's gross emissions.
The direct use of fuels such as natural gas, oil products, coal and wood in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors accounted for 18 percent of emissions. The agricultural and forest wildfire sectors together accounted for 14 percent of emissions.
Other sources of emissions included industrial processes, landfills and wastewater management facilities.
The commission analyzed the costs to implement 29 of its recommendations and estimated a net cost of $3.7 billion between 2009 and 2025.
Among other things, the commission recommends new nuclear power plants; a carbon tax program; a consortium to develop renewable energy production facilities and market renewable energy to consumers; and numerous measures to improve energy efficiency.
Governor's Commission On Global Warming