updated 7/28/2004 12:59:16 PM ET 2004-07-28T16:59:16

Methane emissions would be harvested by industrial nations and sold to poorer countries for use as a clean-burning fuel under a plan that would also slow global warming, Bush administration officials announced Wednesday.

The heads of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Department, along with President Bush’s senior environmental adviser, said the plan would create a new market in methane, a heat-trapping atmospheric gas that largely goes to waste.

The plan involves spending up to $53 million over the next five years as part of an agreement with seven countries to harvest emissions of methane primarily from landfills, coal mines and oil and gas systems. Interactive: The greenhouse effect

The administration, meanwhile, has opposed restricting emissions of carbon dioxide, the industrial gas most cited by scientists for warming the atmosphere like a greenhouse. President Bush had supported regulating that gas in his 2000 campaign.

The United States is joining with Australia, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Britain and Ukraine to develop the methane market.

Mike Leavitt, the EPA administrator, cited significant energy, safety and environmental benefits.

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 by 2015 to have the effect of removing 33 million cars from highways for a year or cutting all emissions from 50 500 MW coal-burning power plants.

Project background is online at www.epa.gov/methane/international.html.

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