With pressure mounting on the US establishment to take climate change seriously, the US House of Representatives has hit upon an ingenious solution: buying carbon credits to offset emissions from an antiquated power plant that services the Capitol's needs. The credits, worth US $89,000, were purchased on November 5 through an auction at the Chicago Climate Exchange.
The power plant, which is the only coal-fired utility in the District of Columbia, belches about 30,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases every year. In 2006, the Capitol's functioning led to about 82,500 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. The plant provides heating and cooling of the building while electricity is purchased from a local utility.
The move is part of the House's strategy called 'Green the Capitol initiative'. Early this year, the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, had vowed to make the sandstone-and-marble Capitol green by the end of 2008. The chief administrator, Daniel Beard, had then said that shutting down the only coal-fired power plant in the district was a priority. According to current plans, the power plant will only run on natural gas and renewable technologies will be installed in the building. Even after implementation of these measures, the House would still need to offset about 30,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
Meanwhile, the Republicans are raising objections on the purchase of carbon credits and questioning use of tax-payers' money. While the bill related to 'Green the Capitol initiative' still remains to be approved, the Democrats are pushing hard to get the measure through. The Chicago Climate Exchange will soon serve the House an invoice of auction.
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