« PreviousContinue »
THURSDAY, JULY 29, 1999
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, DC. The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:12 a.m., in room 2247, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Philip R. Sharp (chairman) presiding.
Mr. SHARP. The subcommittee will please come to order.
In today's hearing, we will be discussing at least two of our greatest challenges, responding to global climate change and finding renewable sources of energy. Trees and other plants hold part of the answer to these challenges. And what we are going to essentially try to do is get a better grasp on what role forest and biomass areas can have in terms of sinks or absorbers of carbon dioxide or storers of carbon dioxide and how that relates to our use of those resources in terms of energy, so we get reductions in carbon dioxide emissions in the United States and worldwide.
I would like to allude to two significant issues where I think that our country is now considering, in the executive branch and will in the Congress. First, we want to make sure that sinks are a part of any strategy of the U.S. Government in terms of a global climate change policy. I think no strategy that does not include this would have credibility intellectually or politically in this country.
And second, and more controversial, is the question of joint implementation, that is, policies that encourage U.S. corporations or entities to engage in reductions in other parts of the world, especially in the developing world, and how those will be monitored, calculated in terms of who gets credit for reductions if we get to a policy which, in part, people are required to make reductions.
It seems to me that in a highly imperfect world, and dealing with the international community, anything we do to encourage the transfer of energy efficiency or conservation technologies abroad will be useful. Anything that we do to encourage efficiency of combustion abroad will be useful, that anything we do to help preserve resources elsewhere in the world, as well as here at home, will be useful and that we will be very foolish if, out of a desire for perfectionism in a highly imperfect world, we seek to remove incentives or not provide incentives for activities worldwide.
There is a lot of information that has to be transferred to us from the developing world. There is a lot of information that needs to be transferred from us to them. Capital that needs to move. Technology that needs to move. And I am concerned about those critics
who see joint implementation as simply a cop-out in terms of CO2 reduction in the United States. Admittedly, some projects could turn out that way and we may miss in a sense the forest for the trees being so worried about a cop-out that we miss a vital opportunity to get actions that might not otherwise occur.
With that, let me recognize my distinguished colleague from Florida, the minority ranking member of the committee, Mr. Bilirakis.
Mr. BILIRAKIS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
You have oftentimes heard me make the comment that I like to think for the most part we hold these hearings as information gathering forums.
And certainly I would like to think that today falls in that category and it also gives us a forum to send a message or at least send what we learn here today to the administration.
As we know, the administration presently is in the process of updating the U.S. action plan on climate change for submission to the United Nations Intergovernment Negotiating Committee in Geneva in August, in just a few weeks. At a Monday meeting on the U.S. plan, members of the administration's indoor agency group charged with updating the plan stated that they are debating whether to include joint implementation in the action plan.
And as we know, joint implementation is a process whereby the United States, by way of tree planting, improved forest management and the sale of clean coal, natural gas, and renewable and efficiency technologies in less developed countries, reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr. Chairman, I am concerned that the administration is debating whether to include joint implementation in the action plan. To me, it is self-evident that it should be included. It is the most costeffective U.S. strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, joint implementation creates American jobs. The overseas electric power market offers the United States a major opportunity to export our power technologies. This, in turn, will create many U.S. jobs.
The administration already is trying to reinvent government. It does not need to reinvent the wheel as well. Joint implementation already is a part of the Rio treaty, and climate change in section 1605 of the Energy Policy Act provides a perfect vehicle for establishing baseline monitoring and verification information for joint implementation.
So, Mr. Chairman, I welcome this hearing today and look forward to learning the latest on trees as a sink for carbon emissions and I thank you, sir.
Mr. SHARP. Does the gentleman from Oklahoma have a statement?
Mr. SYNAR. A very brief statement.
Mr. Chairman, what we have here is a war between the tree huggers and the tree muggers. And I am particularly concerned about some of our U.S. forest practices in our own Federal lands and how they may worsen the buildup of our greenhouse gases, and at the taxpayers' expense, I might say.
As a result, I am going to announce today that we have asked the Congressional Research Service to look into ways that the forest Federal management system can aid this effort to reduce these greenhouse gases and identify the obstacles that we have on our own Federal lands.
You know, as you said, the administration is going to unveil its first approach in dealing with global climate changes in its paper in Geneva, Switzerland in mid-August, and I hope that these plans do include tree planting and other relatively cheap and effective options for reducing greenhouse gases such as joint implementation.
This is a vision for the future. It works and I think it can really be a practical solution in the time when we are looking for those. So I commend you for the hearing today.
Mr. SHARP. I thank you.
Mr. CRAPO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just have a brief statement. I want to say that I am here with the attitude that I have heard expressed by others, to see if we can find solutions to this issue. I want us to develop the kinds of consensus between competing interests that will help us protect the climate and protect the environment and still maintain a strong commitment to the viable industries that are going to be impacted by the considerations we face in these matters.
I am hopeful we will be able to get information presented to us that will help us reach those appropriate balances.
Mr. SHARP. I appreciate it.
Mr. HASTERT. I have a very brief statement that I will submit for the record, but beyond that, I want to thank you for holding this hearing.
I think this hearing comes at a very crucial time when the administration is talking about trying to hold on and make a commitment to stabilize greenhouse gases by the year 2000 and also the using of trees for carbon dioxide sinks, and I think we are certainly on the precipice of this decisionmaking process.
I submit my opening statement for the record.
[The opening statements of Messrs. Hastert, Moorhead and Kreidler were received for the record:)
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. J. DENNIS HASTERT Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank you for holding this important hearing, the third such hearing on global warming this subcommittee has held this session of Congress.
This hearing gives me an opportunity to better understand the state of scientific knowledge relating to using trees as carbon dioxide sinks and their potential contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
This hearing comes at a most propitious time. The Clinton administration, having committed to stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions in the year 2000 at 1990 levels, is now in the process of updating the draft U.S. action plan required by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. As I understand it there is much debate about whether to include “joint implementation” in the action plan. Under such a plan tree planting and harvesting techniques would be coupled with other strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Joint implementation makes absolute sense.
It shouldn't be debated it should be included as the most cost-effective greenhouse reduction strategy out there.
I welcome and look forward to hearing from our witnesses today.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. CARLOS J. MOORHEAD Mr. Chairman, I am aware that the administration is currently in the process of updating the U.S. action plan, apparently in time for the August U.N. meeting on climate change in Geneva. And I am aware that there is a debate within the administration about whether to include joint implementation in the action plan and if it is included, whether to limit or condition joint implementation in some way. I would just like to take this opportunity to join you and others such as Senators Johnston and Baucus who have already advised the administration that joint implementation should be included in the action plan. In view of the President's commitment to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions in the year 2000 at 1990 levels, I believe it is clearly in the interest of this country to be able to make those reductions wherever they are most cost effective, in other words, via joint implementation.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just wanted to get that sentiment on the record.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. MIKE KREIDLER Mr. Chairman, I would first like to express my thanks to you for holding this hearing. This is an extremely important and timely topic. I look forward to the testimony from some of the Nation's preeminent scientists in the field of tree planting, global climate change, and renewable energy.
In particular, I hope our discussions with these scientists will help me understand how tree planting and other forms of forestry and wood product management can help States like Washington to combat greenhouse emissions.
In fact, I think it's safe to say that Washington State and others in the Pacific Northwest are very well situated to conduct experiments in this area because of our experience with and knowledge of forest management issues generally.
I look forward to participating in the ongoing debate over guidelines for forest and wood product management that will enhance carbon sequestration. It's important that as a result of this debate we develop a comprehensive policy that deals not just with planting more trees, but also with how and when to plant more trees, how to harvest existing trees, and how to enhance the use of wood products so that carbon sequestration is maintained for longer periods of time.
Again, thanks to Chairman Sharp for holding this important hearing. I'll have a couple of questions for the witnesses at the appropriate time.
Mr. SHARP. Gentlemen, we appreciate your time and interest in our hearing. We have with us today Dr. Gregg Marland of the Environmental Science Division of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Dr. Jim Bowyer, professor and head of the Department of Forest Products with the University of Minnesota.
We have Dr. Stanley Bull, the technical Director for Transportation Programs with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; And we have Mr. Gary Moll, Vice President for Urban Forestry with American Forest; and we have Dr. James R. Birk, the Director of the Storage and Renewable Department with the Electric Power Research Institute.
I think you are familiar with our process. We will be happy to make your written testimony and any other documents you wish to submit a part of our printed record. And at this point, we will be happy to have your oral summary.
Dr. Marland, we will begin with you.