NJ on Track to Meet 2020 Pollution Target — 2050 Goals More Problematic

Report from Rutgers maps greenhouse-gas emissions for industries, transportation, other sectors

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The state is on a path to meet its goals to reduce greenhouse-gas pollution by 2020, but achieving its ambitious 2050 targets will take much more work, according to an updated inventory of those emissions by the Rutgers Climate Institute and Rutgers Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy..

The 16-page inventory is the first prepared by the institute and Bloustein. It focuses on greenhouse-gas emissions in 2012. It shows that New Jersey is ahead of its 2020 target of reducing emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels, a point frequently made by the Christie administration.

But achieving an 80 percent reduction by 2050 from 2006 levels will be much more difficult to attain, according to the study.

“It will require significant policy changes,’’ said Jeanne Herb, one of the authors of the inventory. “It definitely requires attention.’’

While not advocating any specific policy goals, the inventory did identify some options for helping meet that aggressive target by 2050. “More progress in a number of the major sectors is needed to achieve the 2050 limit,’’ the study said.

Transportation is one of the sectors, which accounts for 46 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions in the state. To address that problem, the inventory suggested extensive electrification of the motor vehicle fleet –provided that the electricity is generated from low- and zero-carbon sources.

The electric-generating sector is the second-largest source of greenhouse-gas emissions, comprising 21 percent of the releases, followed by residential (12.1 percent), industrial (10.3 percent), and commercial facilities (10.1 percent) using fossil fuels, mainly for heating purposes.

The issue of complying with a law passed during the Corzine administration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has generated much criticism from clean-energy advocates and environmentalists.

[related]Their chief objections involve Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to pull out of a 10-state regional initiative to curb emissions contributing to global warming from power plants. Christie described the program as ineffective and a tax on utility customers. Critics also fault the administration for never proposing necessary regulations to promote the development of offshore wind farms in coastal waters in New Jersey.

The Christie administration counters that the state is reducing greenhouse gas emissions, an argument that is somewhat bolstered by the latest inventory posted yesterday on the Rutgers site.

That is happening due to a variety of factors: electricity generate with natural gas replacing power from coal-fired plants; a relatively warm winter and cool summer in 2012 that reduced use of fuels for heating and electricity for cooling; increased efforts to promote energy efficiency; and a trend to more power being produced by solar power, although relatively small in effect.

The trend to retire coal plants is likely to continue and continued progress in energy efficiency holds promise for more reductions in global-warming emissions, the inventory said. “However, a closer examination of the data indicates that this source of reductions, too, is likely to be far less than will be needed to reach the 2050 limit,’’ the inventory said.

Clean-energy advocates were also skeptical as to whether those targets could be achieved.

“The DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) and the Christie administration have been AWOL on global emissions in the state,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey.

He and others said it was particularly critical that the state begin addressing the problem of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. “Electric vehicles need to be part of the solution,’’ O’Malley said.

The state has not embraced much of a program to install electric-vehicle charging stations. Environmentalists say New Jersey is lagging behind other states in installing these stations, which many consider crucial to convincing consumers to buy electric vehicles.

But others say it could lead to new costs to consumers in a state with some of the highest energy costs in the nation.

Beyond the transportation sector, the state also needs to focus on land-use issues, according to Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The further we spread out the housing pattern (the more) we generate greenhousegas emissions,’’ he said.