Pollution cuts in 2020 from House clean energy bill equal to taking 500 million cars off the road — and double that in 2030 American Clean Energy and Security Act (aka Waxman-Markey) would achieve a significant reduction in greenhouse gas pollution by 2020 equivalent to taking 500 million cars off the road.  By 2030, those savings double.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), authored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) and House Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chair Ed Markey (D-MA) would achieve a significant reduction in the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. The ACES mandates a 17-percent reduction in greenhouse gases below 2005 levels by 2020. That translates into a cut of 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2020 compared to inaction, according to a projection based on an analysis by the World Resources Institute. This is comparable to taking 500 million cars off the road, which is twice the number of U.S. cars today, and half the cars expected in the world in 2020.

This pollution reduction estimate is conservative, since it does not include other complementary policies in the bill that would also reduce greenhouse gases. These provisions include renewable electricity and efficiency standards that would give utilities until 2020 to generate 15 percent of their electricity from the wind, sun, and other clean sources. Utilities would also have to reduce electricity demand by 5 percent. These measures would further reduce greenhouse gas pollutions.

The ACES would also slash energy use in new buildings by 50 percent by 2016. Buildings are responsible for nearly half of energy use and greenhouse gas pollution, so this provision would achieve additional reductions beyond the cap.

These pollution reductions come not a moment too soon, since scientific evidence of global warming harms continue to mount. In addition to fiercer storms, longer droughts, wetter floods, and scarcer food, global warming will harm human health. Margaret Chan, the director-general of the World Health Organisation, noted that “Climate change will affect, in profoundly adverse ways, some of the most fundamental determinants of health: food, air, water.” It is morally irresponsible to do nothing in the wake of this mounting evidence of the coming catastrophe.

Despite scientists’ urgent pleas to act, many conservatives would prefer to do nothing. House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Joe Barton (R-TX) plans to introduce an energy bill that ignores global warming, except to prevent action to stop it. Instead, it would continue the Bush-Cheney energy policies of “drill, baby, drill” and “burn, baby, burn.” These policies led to an increase in average annual family energy costs of $1,100.

On Monday, May 18, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will begin debate and vote on The American Clean Energy and Security Act. It is not a perfect proposal that will magically solve our energy problems. But it would slash global warming pollution in 2020 by 2.2 billion tons, comparable to removing 500 million cars from the road — and double that by 2030. It would create thousands of jobs manufacturing steel for wind turbines and building energy-efficient buildings. ACES would reduce our oil use and increase our national security. Representatives Waxman and Markey have done monumental work to start on the long road to a clean-energy future after being stalled for the last eight years.

This post was written by Daniel J. Weiss, a Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy at American Progress.  It was first posted here. Tara McGuinness provided assistance.  As did I.  Please note that we have used the WRI business as usual emissions forecast, which is dervied from EPA’s.  It is a couple of months out of date and when an updated forecast is done using EIA’s April post-stimulus update it might be lowered somewhat.

9 Responses to Pollution cuts in 2020 from House clean energy bill equal to taking 500 million cars off the road — and double that in 2030

  1. C. Vink says:

    You wrote here:
    “I agree with the Greenpeace statement, ‘Waxman-Markey Draft a Good First Step, but Improvements Needed’.”

    In the meantime, Greenpeace (and Friends of the Earth) are negative about the climate bill:
    – “[it] has become significantly weaker over the past week and is no longer strong enough to help the US do its part to combat climate change”;
    – “…giveaways to companies researching Carbon Capture and Sequestration, could be as much as US$10 billion”;
    – “…the bill looks like offering a cut of 4 percent on 1990 emission levels [and] conservative Democrats who have been most instrumental in watering down the bill are attempting to get that target reduced even further, to 6 percent of 2005 levels by 2020.

    I’ve read your elaborate defense of the WA-legislation. Still, for me, not being an expert, it is very difficult to jugde whether Greenpeace is overly negative. I suppose, partly, it’s the question if the glass is half full or half empty.

  2. C. Vink says:

    Sorry, the Greenpeace press release is here.

  3. Joe says:

    CO2 is not pollution any more than Oxygen or H2O is, all three are necessary for life to exist. The more CO2 in our atmosphere the faster plants grow.

    I know it is hard to believe that a career politician like Al Gore could possibly be lying, afterall he did invent the internet, but try being open to that remote possibility. This is all a lie.

  4. I hope Greenpeace reconsiders their negativity regarding Waxman-Markey, not because they are wrong and that it’s enough, but because it’s rhetorically problematic to get negative when you start getting what you want.

  5. Climateer says:

    My slide rule can’t handle the conversion “X cars on the road” to degrees Centigrade.
    Does anyone have the answer right to hand?

  6. GFW says:

    Does anyone know what is happening in the picture of diverted traffic? I realize it’s just a handy visual to the idea of removing cars from the road, but I’m sorta curious what really happened.

  7. John Hollenberg says:

    > The more CO2 in our atmosphere the faster plants grow.

    This is known to be false. Debunked here:

  8. Dennis says:

    GFW, I enjoyed that picture so much I passed it around a work. We took educated guesses from the types of cars and the road markings that it’s taking place somewhere in Europe. But here’s the kicker: the very American looking SUV’s at the head of the diversion look like they are blocking traffic on purpose. Our guess: Secret Service vehicles for a Presidential visit somewhere in Europe.

  9. Craig says:


    The picture was taken in Moscow. I recognize it as the Garden Ring that encircles the center of the city. If the traffic is being blocked for a president, then it’s probably the Russian one. When I lived in the city, Putin and other high ranking officials would routinely have whole roads and highways shut down during their morning commutes to work. Muscovites grumbled but couldn’t do much about it.