WASHINGTON -- Hoping to export U.S. technology under the banner of fighting global warming, the Bush administration said Wednesday it will provide seed money for private companies to help other nations use their own methane gas emissions as a cheap fuel.
The plan calls for spending up to $53 million to spur companies to spend potentially billions of dollars helping transfer technology to an initial group of seven countries. Technology commonly used to remove, store and use methane to generate electricity in the United States has so far focused on landfills, natural gas and oil systems and coal mines.
Because of this, U.S. methane emissions in the United States were 5 percent lower in 2001 than in 1990.
Landfills are the biggest source of methane, 34 percent, in the United States. Methane is the main component of natural gas, and is trapped in coal and released during mining. Another big source is livestock and manure.
As a pollutant, methane ranks second behind carbon dioxide in contributing to the climate change phenomenon that scientists believe is global warming. Methane represents 16 percent of global greenhouse emissions; carbon dioxide is 74 percent, according to the administration.
Bush administration officials were joined by representatives of India and Japan in announcing the plan Wednesday. Other countries involved are Australia, Italy, Mexico, Britain and Ukraine. Canada and Russia also sent representatives to consider joining the group.
From his ranch in Crawford, Texas, President Bush said the aim is to increase energy security, improve environmental quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
He said leveraging federal money would entice private companies "to share and expand the use of technologies to capture methane emissions that are now wasted in the course of industrial processes and use them as a new energy source."
In Washington, administration officials described the plan as a transfer of U.S. technology to other industrialized and developing nations. The nations would create markets for a heat-trapping gas that largely goes to waste.
James L. Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the federal government's millions would likely be more than matched by billions of dollars of private investment.
He described the plan as helping developing nations combat global warming, though most of the countries involved already are industrialized. Bush had rejected the international climate treaty negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, saying it would harm the U.S. economy and developing nations must first agree to participate.
Bush reversed his 2000 campaign pledge to restrict emissions of carbon dioxide.
Mike Leavitt, the EPA administrator, cited significant energy, safety and environmental benefits of the methane plan. He called it "a partnership that has the double benefit of capturing the second-most abundant greenhouse gas and turning it to productive use as a clean-burning fuel."
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said the agreement "will benefit the economies of developing nations across the world."
They said it could potentially eliminate enough methane gas each year to have the effect of removing 33 million cars from highways for a year or cutting all emissions from 50 coal-burning power plants.
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