Bill Would Cut Greenhouse Gases, Boost Agriculture

Article excerpt

A rural Oklahoma lawmaker has introduced legislation aimed at using the private sector to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, while boosting the state's agricultural economy.

Rep. Clay Pope, D-Loyal, said that House Bill 1192, the Oklahoma Carbon Sequestration Enhancement Act, would create a 14-member Carbon Sequestration Advisory Committee to establish a system of trading or marketing credits to reduce the accumulation of carbon dioxide, which traps radiant energy and causes unnatural heating of the Earth.

The idea involves a new concept prompted by an international agreement to cut atmospheric emissions.

Three years ago, 160 nations signed the Kyoto Accord agreement to limit atmospheric emissions, including carbon dioxide.

It provides for the establishment of a carbon sequestration market. This means that consumers of fossil fuels such as utilities, industries, and commuters could pay farmers and others who can sequester carbon, for the right to put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

For example, a consortium of Canadian power companies is already paying some Iowa producers for carbon credits called carbon dioxide emission reduction credits.

Pope, a farmer/rancher, said the committee in his legislation would also be responsible for recommending policies and programs to maximize economic benefits for Oklahoma agricultural landowners participating in carbon marketing and trading transactions.

"The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) estimated carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas emitted by fossil fuel combustion, deforestation and draining wetlands, is adding about three and a half billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere annually," said Pope, who chairs the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.

"Scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have calculated that over the course of the next 50 to 100 years, between 40 billion and 80 billion metric tons of carbon might be absorbed in agricultural soils by applying tried-and-true land management practices," he said.

Some of those practices involve substitution of plowing by reduced tillage; increased use of legumes such as alfalfa, clover, and soybeans in rotation, and returning animal wastes to the soil.

Sequestering carbon in the soil -- burying it -- provides an opportunity to reduce the amount of the potentially dangerous gas, Pope said.

Reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide can be accomplished by:

* Increasing organic carbon production, trapping carbon within plants. …