Published: Saturday 15 May 2004

Pollution Control

Mandatory emissions caps rein in power-plant pollution more effectively than voluntary programmes. That's the conclusion of a collation on environmental records of the 100 largest electricity companies in the us. The reports were put together by a group of us environmental groups including the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Public Service Enterprise Group.The conclusions might seem quite obvious to some, but they are particularly significant since the Bush administration has made "voluntary compliance" the central plank of its environmental platform.

The study analysed utility-industry emissions of four pollutants -- nitrogen oxides (nox), sulphur dioxide (so2), carbon dioxide (co2) and mercury -- using data collected by the us Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Information Administration from 1991 to 2002.

The data revealed a marked overall decrease in emissions of pollutants subject to mandatory federal regulations: nox fell by 28 per cent over the period studied and so2 fell by 35 per cent. In sharp contrast, emissions of co2 rose by 25 per cent between 1991 and 2002. This pollutant has been the subject of a range of hopeful government initiatives and pleas -- none mandatory.

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