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OCTOBER 9, 2003
10:35 AM
Liz Hitchcock, Beth Lander, Katherine Morrison (202) 546-9707
The Costs Of Inaction: Delaying Action On Global Warming Costs Consumers And The Environment
WASHINGTON - October 9 - Extreme weather events cost Americans nearly $20 billion in 2002, a cost that could increase if the U.S. does nothing to curb global warming. At the same time, clean energy technologies could save American consumers billions of dollars and reduce global warming pollution, according to a new report by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

Released as Congress considers a conference report on a national energy bill, the U.S. PIRG report -- The Costs of Inaction: Delaying Action on Global Warming Costs Consumers and the Environment -- details how clean energy solutions could save consumers billions of dollars and curb global warming pollution.

“People say we can’t change the weather, but due to global warming we may already have,” said U.S. PIRG Global Warming Advocate Beth Lander. “While the U.S. does nothing to curb global warming, consumers are losing out on the money-saving benefits of clean energy solutions, and we all pay the price to deal with the consequences.”

Burning dirty fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas) to power cars and homes releases heat-trapping global warming gases into the atmosphere, which alters the climate of the planet and throws weather systems out of balance. Scientists warn that doing nothing to reduce global warming pollution will increase the frequency and severity of costly extreme weather events such as drought, floods, and hurricanes. U.S. PIRG analyzed data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Flood Insurance Program, Army Corps of Engineers, Small Business Administration, Farm Service Agency, and the Property Claims Service and found that extreme weather-related spending in the U.S. in 2002 totaled nearly $20 billion nationally. According to the report:

In 2002, the U.S. government spent $13.8 billion on weather-related disaster assistance and the insurance companies paid out nearly $5.9 billion; Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Georgia were the four states with the highest overall spending in 2002; and North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming were the four states with the highest per capita spending.

“The Bush Administration says it’s too expensive to curb global warming pollution, but the solutions to global warming can save consumers billions of dollars,” said U.S. PIRG Staff Attorney Katherine Morrison.

U.S. PIRG’s report details the numerous solutions available to reduce global warming emissions, especially carbon dioxide, which would also save consumers money and boost the economy.

Increasing the percentage of electricity generated from clean, renewable sources to 20% by 2020 could reduce global warming emissions from power plants by 19% in 2020. In the U.S., more than four times the country’s total electricity needs could be met by renewables, not including solar energy. A study by the Bush Administration’s Energy Information Administration found that a 20% standard is feasible and that consumers could save money in the long run. Implementing energy efficiency and renewable energy measures together could save American residential utility customers nearly $5.8 billionannually on their natural gas bills alone.

When fully implemented, raising fuel economy standards to 40-mpg within a decade for cars, light trucks, and SUVs could cut U.S. global warming pollution from passenger vehicles by 20%. By 2020, this would reduce oil consumption from cars and trucks by one-third and save American consumers more than $70 billion per year at the gas pump. The Bush Administration has called the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement that would require the U.S. to reduce global warming emissions to 7% below 1990 levels by 2012, a “fatally flawed” treaty. The Bush Administration has opposed mandates to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, instead relying solely on voluntary action by polluters. In addition, the current energy bill does not limit global warming emissions. The Senate is expected to vote for the first time on capping global warming emissions in mid- to late-October, when it votes on the Climate Stewardship Act of 2003. This bill,offered by Senators McCain and Lieberman, would establish a mandatory carbon dioxide reduction program along with a global warming emission trading system.

“American consumers are counting on Congress to reject the dirty, dangerous energy bill and instead start promoting policies that reduce global warming pollution and save consumers money,” said U.S. PIRG Staff Attorney Katherine Morrison.

U.S. PIRG is the national office for the state Public Interest Research Groups. State PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organizations active across the country.


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