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Global Warming Fight Called Affordable

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a unique study produced by five prominent national laboratories, the Clinton administration said Thursday that the anticipated economic cost of reducing emissions linked to global warming can be met by aggressive use of new energy technology by the end of the next decade.

The conclusions bolster the arguments of environmentalists and many scientists who have studied global warming. They should strengthen the administration’s political hand at home as it prepares to negotiate an international treaty imposing limits on emissions of so-called greenhouse gases.

The findings, if accurate, also undercut predictions of American industry leaders and others that the U.S. economy would be hurt by such an agreement.

The report “is the first major study that says you can do this in a way that does not harm the economy,” said Joseph Romm, an acting assistant secretary of Energy. “Sooner or later the country will do something on climate change. This is the first road map that says here are the things the country should focus on.”

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The study considered the effects of increased use of energy from unconventional sources--wind power, natural gas turbines and agricultural byproducts, for instance--as opposed to a continued reliance on the burning of coal and oil. It totaled the costs of specific energy sources and sites.

The research also weighed the potential savings from reducing energy waste. The nation’s collection of inefficient computers, television sets and other electronic products, for example, burn up vast quantities of energy even when they are switched off because many of them remain on a standby mode.

Thus, the document goes to the heart of one of the key concerns in the climate-change debate: whether the United States can afford to curb its energy appetite. For the first time, a major governmental study comes up with an encouraging answer based on a detailed analysis of specific costs.

It found that the $51-billion to $88-billion cost of developing a high-efficiency energy-use scenario and switching to low-carbon power generation would be offset by a $70-billion to $88-billion savings in energy expenses.

“The bottom line is climate technology can achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” Romm said.

The study was by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory.


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