Oklahama

A voluntary private-sector plan that would allow agriculture and industry to join hands to lower a potentially dangerous atmospheric gas floated through the Oklahoma House with little opposition.

House Bill 1192, the Oklahoma Carbon Sequestration Enhancement Act, passed the House by a vote of 93 to 8 and was referred to the Senate.

"The measure would establish a voluntary program of carbon dioxide sequestration, carbon credit and-or carbon trading systems that would allow agriculture and industry to work in concert to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere," said Rep. Clay Pope, D-Loyal, a farmer and rancher.

"We are not trying to institute more government regulations or put additional pressure on industry," said Pope, author of the bill. "The purpose of the measure is to allow producers and industries to address the issue through voluntary means."

Pope wants to initiate a program where the state Conservation Commission would be able to certify if "certain levels of carbon dioxide, believed to be the principal greenhouse gas, are being removed from the atmosphere by way of proposed changes to farming practices."

It would be successful in two ways. "It would assist Oklahoma's farmers by providing additional economic incentives through better use of their land," Pope said. "And it would benefit industry by helping them lower the output of dangerous gases in a way that also could prevent more government regulations."

HB 1192 would form a 14-member Carbon Sequestration Advisory Committee "dedicated to establishing a public or private sector system of trading or marketing credits to reduce the accumulation of carbon dioxide, a gas that traps radiant energy from the sun and causes unnatural heating of the Earth."

The committee would be responsible for recommending policies or programs to maximize economic benefits for Oklahoma agricultural landowners participating in voluntary carbon marketing and trading transactions.

Pope said it is believed that carbon dioxide is increasing worldwide by fossil fuel combustion, leveling rain forests and draining wetlands. "Those practices are putting approximately 3.5 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year," he said.

Pope said research gathered by scientists of the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change indicates over the course of the next 50 to 100 years, between 40 billion and 80 billion metric tons of carbon might be absorbed into agricultural soils by applying tried-and-true land management practices.

Some of those simple practices to reduce the accumulation of carbon dioxide involve planting grass or trees on land in production; employing minimal or no-till production practices; increasing use of legumes, such as alfalfa, clover, and soybeans in rotation; and returning animal wastes to the soil.

"Research also indicates that reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide could be accomplished by increasing organic carbon production, thus trapping the gas vapor within plants," said Pope, vice chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

Other ways of reducing carbon in the air include decreasing organic carbon mineralization, managing crops and soils to reduce conditions that break down plant residues and trapping carbon in the soil by reducing soil erosion.

"Oklahoma can be a leader in helping the United States address an international problem through a voluntary method provided to agriculture and industry. HB 1192 would allow us to move forward to reduce those dangerous greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere," Pope said.

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