President Clinton is set to issue an executive order calling on the government to use less energy and cut greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent, administration officials said yesterday.
Clinton's order -- coming at a time when many environmentalists have chided the administration for not doing enough to address climate change -- will be announced at a Cabinet meeting today. The federal government is the world's largest user of energy -- more than $8 billion worth a year. About half is used to heat, cool and light its buildings.
Government agencies will be required to increase efforts to cut energy use for lighting, heating and cooling, and to achieve a 35 percent reduction by 2010, compared with 1985 levels. They already have gone halfway toward that goal.
Agencies also will have to show that they're on a path to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2010, officials said. For the first time, the government will tie energy conservation programs to specific greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels is a principal greenhouse gas that scientists believe is causing a warming of the Earth as it accumulates in the atmosphere. The Kyoto climate agreement reached in December 1997 calls for the United States to reduce greenhouse gases 7 percent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.
Although the administration signed the Kyoto treaty, the White House has come under increased criticism in recent months from environmentalists for not moving more aggressively to curtail heat-trapping emissions. The treaty has not been ratified by the Senate.
Nine environmental leaders recently called on Clinton to ask Congress to raise the fuel efficiency requirements for cars and to include stronger language to address climate change in proposed legislation to deregulate the electricity industry.
"The government is the biggest energy consumer in the world," said David Nemtzow, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, a private advocacy group. "The stakes are very big. And if the feds can make it work, anybody can make it work."