Higher Education: GAO-08-601R

May 2008
GAO Reports;5/1/2008, p1
Government Documents
Elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases--carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and several synthetic chemicals--in the atmosphere resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels and other sources have the potential to cause significant changes in the earth's climate. These potential impacts include shifts in sea level and weather patterns and could pose threats to coastal and other infrastructure. Concerns about the potential impacts of climate change have led the Congress to consider legislation that would place binding, nationwide limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and the House of Representatives' leadership has initiated efforts to decrease emissions attributable to its operations. Nearly all of the greenhouse gas emissions from House operations consist of carbon dioxide and are associated with electricity purchased from utilities and the combustion of fossil fuels in the Capitol Power Plant (CPP), which provides steam and chilled water for heating and cooling the Capitol building and 23 surrounding facilities. The Architect of the Capitol (AOC) operates CPP. In June 2007, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the House of Representatives released the Green the Capitol initiative (the initiative) at the direction of the Speaker and the Majority Leader. Among other goals, the initiative calls for the House of Representatives to operate in a carbon-neutral manner by the end of the 110th Congress (December 2008). Based on an AOC estimate, the House's share of the cost of achieving the fuel-switching goal would total $2.75 million in fiscal year 2008. The Omnibus Appropriations Act for that year appropriated $85.3 million for CPP. The House Appropriations Committee Explanatory Statement directs $3.27 million of this amount to the Green the Capitol initiative. In addition to the House's efforts to implement the Green the Capitol initiative, the Congress is considering proposals that would create nationwide limits on greenhouse gas emissions from electricity-generating units and other sectors of the economy. Within this context, the House Committee on Appropriations directed GAO to determine, in consultation with the Department of Energy, (1) the expected increase in natural gas use for House operations and the associated costs at CPP that would result from the Green the Capitol initiative, and (2) the ability of existing U.S. coal-burning, electricity-generating units to switch to burning natural gas and the associated economic implications. According to our analysis, implementing the Green the Capitol initiative's fuel-switching directive to decrease carbon dioxide emissions from the CPP should lead to a 38 percent increase in natural gas use over the average annual quantity consumed between 2001 and 2007. We estimated that the fuel switching should cost about $1.4 million in fiscal year 2008 and could range from between $1.0 and $1.8 million depending on actual fuel costs, among other factors. Our cost estimates are...


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