October 04, 2008
The city's plan to cut greenhouse gases

The city of Houston has a plan to cut greenhouse gases.

Mayor Bill White's plan would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 11 percent below 2005 levels by 2010. City officials described the target as conservative, because it's based on existing programs, and they expect to introduce more, including additional solar panels on rooftops and expanded mass transit.

With the strategies already in play, the plan doesn't need the approval of City Council. What's new is the analysis of the city's emissions.

"While we have undertaken all of these initiatives, we've taken them for many different reasons," such as energy efficiency and cost savings, said Elena Marks, the mayor's director of environmental and health policy. "We hadn't captured what the emissions reductions would be."

The plan places Houston high on any list of green strivers, experts said. Austin's energy goals may be more ambitious, and Arlington has a broader inventory of emissions, but neither has a detailed plan for reducing pollutants that hover in the atmosphere.


The plan deals in areas that White directly controls, such as the city's energy use and power purchases.

It also shows how much of the reduction in greenhouse gases will come from which steps. For example, by swapping out every traffic-light bulb for a light-emitting diode, the city would cut emissions of carbon dioxide by 12,011 tons, or 69 percent, from 2005 levels.

The largest reductions would come from Houston's shift to wind energy, which is cleaner and currently cheaper than that from natural-gas plants. One-third of the city's power purchases for its municipal facilities already come from wind-driven sources under a contract that allows for incremental increases over time.

"I believe the city of Houston has done more concrete things in the last several years to reduce its emissions than many, many other cities," White said. "The proof in the pudding is how much less power is consumed by the city and where we get that power."

I like it. It's something everyone should be thinking about and doing something about, it's attainable, and it ought to be a money-saver over time thanks to lower utility bills. Well done.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 04, 2008 to Elsewhere in Houston
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