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Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News
A state blue ribbon task force stated emphatically that humans are to blame for global warming.

A state blue ribbon task force on climate change stated emphatically Monday that humans are to blame for global warming and offered a slate of recommendations on ways Utah can fight the changes.

But one much-discussed option, developing nuclear power, was only on the B list of recommendations by the Blue Ribbon Advisory Council on Climate Change.

A nearly final version of a report to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. was accepted Monday by the task force, which Huntsman appointed a year ago.

The council's report, about an inch thick and printed on both sides of the page, still needs some final tinkering, such as clarification comments, but the basic recommendations will remain the same, according to the state energy adviser, Dianne Nielson.

Recommendations are divided into high priority and medium priority items to combat global warming, which a consensus of scientists blames on greenhouse gas emissions. These are mostly carbon dioxide, released by burning fossil fuel.

"There is no longer any scientific doubt that the Earth's average surface temperature is increasing and that changes in ocean temperature, ice and snow cover, and sea level are consistent with this global warming," says the report.

"Based on extensive scientific research, there is very high confidence that human-generated increases in greenhouse gas concentrations are responsible for most of the global warming observed during the past 50 years."

The task force recommended the following "high-priority options" — these are highlights, not all of the many detailed recommendations:

• Develop significant amounts of renewable energy resources, with the state having a portfolio of renewable energy, energy development zones, tax credits and incentives for renewable energy, pricing and metering strategies, and research and development on energy.

• "Encourage carbon capture and sequestration technology," in which carbon dioxide from emitters like coal-burning power plants is caught before it can reach the smokestacks, then pumped into an underground storage area.

• "Develop and deploy advanced generation technology," with incentives for advanced fossil fuel technologies that yield a reduction of carbon emissions.

• "Improve efficiency and reduce CO2 (carbon dioxide) at existing electricity generation plants." Tactics could include retrofitting plants to capture CO2, retiring old plants and building new, low-carbon plants.

• Promote combined heat and power distributed generation.

• "Develop and implement aggressive mass transit strategy."

• Reduce vehicle idling and vehicle speed, to cut down on emissions.

• Have the state vehicle fleet take the lead in changes.

• Set voluntary efficiency targets for residential, commercial and industrial buildings.

• Improve building codes.

• Preserve open space and agricultural land, trying to protect forests.

• Promote production of biomass fuel.

The recommendations that are labeled as merely "medium priority" include, among others:

• Develop and deploy advanced generation technology, which would include such things as converting landfill gases and other waste gases to energy, and "nuclear development."

• Institute "congestion pricing" to reduce transportation congestion.

• Expand use of wood products for building materials.

Another section, recommending a cost-benefit analysis, remains to be added.

"There have been a number of changes that have been made" to the draft, Nielson told the panel. If necessary, the panel could be reconvened to debate any of the changes, she said. She also will have members consider a renewable energy section.

A member of the panel asked what the next step is. Nielson said that once these items are approved in final form, "we will be formally presenting this to the governor." Based on Huntsman's review, some steps could follow such as asking state agencies for action.

"There may be some (recommendations) that will require legislative action," she said. In that case, Huntsman would work with legislators and find sponsors for those provisions.

During the meeting, the amplified voice of Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon boomed from above. One of the task force's 24 members, he was unable to be present in person Monday but participated via telephone.

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Two members of the task force who might not at first blush seem likely bedfellows said they were happy with the recommendations and that their groups' Web sites may link to the final version of the report. They are Scott Gutting, director of the industry-commercial oriented Utah Association of Energy Users, and Tim Wagner, conservation coordinator for the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club.

After the meeting, Nielson told the Deseret Morning News that the report contains "a range of options that could be used to reduce greenhouse gases." She noted that the task force's membership included representatives of local governments, interest groups, state and legislative entities.


E-mail: bau@desnews.com