The institute’s leadership has met with key figures in the Obama administration, which has signaled it will take aggressive action on global warming in the coming months. The president warned in his inaugural address last month that failure to act "would betray our children and future generations," and he’s expected to expand on the same theme in his State of the Union address next week.
There are four main areas of opportunity where the administration can act without involving Congress, Bianco said. The biggest impact could come by applying higher standards for carbon dioxide emissions to existing power plants – a politically dicey move that’s expected to meet with resistance from industry.
Work also can be done to reduce emissions from refrigerants and air conditioners. The World Resources Institute, like the nonprofit organization the Clean Air Task Force, calls for limiting methane emissions in the natural gas production process. Finally, the institute sees plenty of room for improvement by increasing energy efficiency in industrial applications and home appliances.
The Obama administration appears to have in place at the Department of Energy what the institute’s Susan Tierney described as strong "analytic horsepower." The EPA also has the "backbone and vision" to move on those areas of opportunity, said Tierney, an expert on energy policy and economics.