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U.S. to Aid Nations in Methane Conversion

The United States will help poorer nations harvest their methane emissions and turn them into clean-burning fuel, which will reduce pollution that contributes to global warming, Bush administration officials announced Wednesday.

The heads of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Department, along with President Bush's senior environmental adviser, said the plan would tap the power of the market to reduce release of methane, a heat-trapping atmospheric gas that largely goes to waste.

The plan involves spending up to $53 million over the next five years as part of an agreement with seven countries to help poorer nations harvest emissions of methane primarily from landfills, coal mines and oil and gas systems.

Methane is already captured from coal mines and landfills in the United States and used to generate electricity, officials said. Because of this, U.S. methane emissions in the United States were 5 percent lower in 2001 than in 1990.

The administration, meanwhile, has opposed restricting emissions of carbon dioxide, the industrial gas most cited by scientists for warming the atmosphere like a greenhouse. President Bush had supported regulating that gas in his 2000 campaign.

Methane represents 16 percent of global greenhouse emissions; carbon dioxide is 74 percent, according to the administration.

The United States is joining with Australia, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Britain and Ukraine to develop the methane market. Canada and Russia also sent representatives to consider joining the group.

Mike Leavitt, the EPA administrator, cited significant energy, safety and environmental benefits.

He called it "a partnership that has the double benefit of capturing the second-most abundant greenhouse gas and turning it to productive use as a clean-burning fuel."

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said the agreement "will benefit the economies of developing nations across the world."

They said it could potentially eliminate enough methane gas each year to have the effect of removing 33 million cars from highways for a year or cutting all emissions from 50 coal-burning power plants.

(SUBS lede to correct that U.S. is sharing technology with other countries, not sharing methane emissions)

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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