Climate-Change Bill Could Lead to Increased Regulations on Fireworks

By Marie Magleby | July 6, 2009 | 8:03pm EDT

A worker assembles parts of a rocket fireworks at Southern Fireworks Manufacturer’s factory in Liuyang, China in Hunan province last Thursday. (AP photo)

( - Americans use more than 200 million pounds of fireworks each year, the majority on July Fourth. Because fireworks emit carbon dioxide (CO2) as they burn, however, the fireworks industry may come under tighter regulation if cap-and-trade legislation passes in the Senate in coming months.
A cap-and-trade bill already passed in the House on June 26, which has raised concerns that Americans will soon be paying more for energy.
The House bill, called the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, introduces the possibility of calculating the amount of carbon emitted by products and labeling the products with this information. 
“The (EPA) administrator shall conduct a study to determine the feasibility of establishing a national program for measuring, reporting, publicly disclosing, and labeling products or materials sold in the United States for their carbon content,” the act lays out in Section 274.
David Chavez, a chemist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and a fireworks expert, said that most consumer fireworks in the U.S. are sold around Independence Day, but carbon emissions from fireworks are only a tiny piece of the carbon-emission pie.
“Compared to other sources of CO2 emission, pyrotechnics is probably not even in the ballpark,” Chavez told
According to the American Pyrotechnic Association, in 2008, Americans used 213 million pounds all told -- including 186 million pounds purchased by individual consumers and 27 million pounds used in professional displays. 
Chavez said that in a worst-case scenario, carbon dioxide emissions from fireworks would amount to 0.006 percent of the total emissions for the nation.
“Basically, the amount of pollution created by all fireworks in this scenario would be equal to about the amount of CO2 produced by 50,000 average Americans annually,” he told
According to the Clean Energy and Security Act, the term “carbon footprint” refers to the level of greenhouse gas emissions produced by a particular activity, service or entity.
The “carbon lifecycle” of a product is the greenhouse gas emissions that are released as part of the processes of creating, producing, processing or manufacturing, modifying, transporting, distributing, storing, using, recycling, or disposing of goods and services.
Both the footprint and the lifecycle of the fireworks industry would come under government scrutiny if the cap-and-trade bill is enacted as proposed.
The precise effects of cap-and-trade on firework consumption remains unclear, but some scientists are currently trying to develop “green,” environmentally friendly fireworks, which they hope will supplant traditional fireworks.
“A new generation of ‘green’ fireworks is quietly making its way toward the sky,” Michael Bernstein of the American Chemical Society said in a press release.
Although these green fireworks have been used at some small-scale events, they are too costly to compete with conventional fireworks in larger productions, Bernstein said. The move toward “green” fireworks is slow because the government does not currently regulate gas emissions from fireworks, he said.

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