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Obama Supercharges CO2 Monitoring

The crash of a NASA mission this week to monitor the flows of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a big blow to climate scientists hoping to learn more about the fate of CO2 streams in the air. But in the 2010 budget, the Obama Administration takes a big step toward monitoring CO2 spewing directly from industrial facilities—an important step in preparing the United States for a cap-and-trade system.

The EPA budget includes "a $19 million increase" for EPA to create a greenhouse gas emission inventory. Currently, as part of long-standing pollution regulations, EPA monitors CO2 emitted from power plants—which make up 35% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. But another 19% comes from industrial sources, like concrete plants, whose CO2 emissions are not monitored at all. "That's the big piece that's missing," says David Rich of the World Resources Institute. He says the additional funding will help EPA cover the resources, creating the registry that will allow it to regulate CO2 for the first time across the U.S. economy. Congress told the Bush Administration to start keeping track of those omissions, but Rich says that the Bush Administration's EPA did not. The White House is now reviewing regulations to do so, and this funding in the 2010 budget would pay for it. (The 2009 budget included $6.5 million for this purpose, says Rich, but it's not known what the $19 million will be an increase over.) 

Another 47% of emissions, by the way, come from homes, businesses, agriculture, and transportation, but EPA has yet to figure out how or whether to monitor those.