Bush Rejects Plan to set Limits on Greenhouse Gas
(IPS) WASHINGTON --
years after rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, Bush Wednesday called for halting the growth in U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions by 2025, a goal greeted with derision by Democrats and environmental groups.
Speaking from the White House Rose Garden, Bush suggested most of the effort to reduce emissions should be focused on the power industry, which currently accounts for about 40 percent of all U.S. emissions, and that the key to success lay with improvements in technology rather than taxes or imposing mandatory limits on emissions by key industries.
"The wrong way is to raise taxes, duplicate mandates, or demand sudden and drastic emissions cuts that have no chance of being realized and every chance of hurting our economy," Bush said.
But environmental activists dismissed Bush's remarks as both too little and too late and warned that they appeared to be designed more to head off pending legislation before Congress opposed by his corporate backers.
"The idea that President Bush is serious about fighting global warming is laughable," said Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth here. "Fortunately, Bush's attempt to impede progress doesn't really matter. This is the last whimper from an increasingly irrelevant president."
"Instead of proposing decisive action and reversing a two-term legacy of obstructing any meaningful progress on global warming, President Bush has once again offered more voluntary and non-binding proposals rather than hard science-based targets to reduce this country's global warming pollution," said John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace USA. "President Bush came into the office in 2001 as an oilman from Texas and he leaves office in 2009 an oilman from Texas."
Indeed, Bush's remarks appeared to be remarkably light on details. It had been rumored that he would announce a cap-and-trade proposal for reducing emissions in the power sector, but a number of Republican lawmakers reportedly objected to the idea at the last minute.
His proposal falls far short of existing commitments by the European Union to reduce its emissions 20 percent below 1990 emissions by 2020 and by 30 percent if other wealthy nations, including the United States, follow suit. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the international body representing the views of thousands of atmospheric and climate scientists and which has issued a series of increasingly alarming reports about global warming, has also called for immediate reductions.
Bush's proposal also falls far short of pending legislation in Congress that, if approved, would mandate reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 25 percent below 2005 emissions levels by 2020 and by as much as 55 percent by 2050. Under the bill, reductions in emissions would begin in 2012; that is, 13 years before Bush's target.
The legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Republican Sen. John Warner, is regarded as having a good chance of passing this year, offering the prospect of a major victory for the environmental movement. Bush said Wednesday he opposed the bill.
Bush's remarks appeared designed chiefly to try to influence the debate in Congress, where he received a dismissive reaction from the chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, California Sen. Barbara Boxer.
"If it's true that the president's proposal would allow increases in the nation's global warming pollution for the next 17 years, then it's not a plan, it's a joke," she told reporters.
Bush appeared to be acting at the behest of some of his big-business supporters who are increasingly concerned that they could face tougher regulation by a more Democratic Congress next year when a Democrat may also be ensconced in the White House.
In a major setback to the administration, the Supreme Court ruled last year that greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, are pollutants under the Clean Air Act and thus subject to regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The ruling, according to observers, has prepared the ground for a host of new regulations with which businesses in virtually all sectors of the economy will have to comply.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the ruling's implications have spurred the White House to meet with Republicans to devise a legislative strategy. The newspaper quoted one lawmaker who participated in the meeting as saying that both the Bush administration and Republican lawmakers are trying to figure out: "Do you do nothing during this Congress? ...Or by doing (nothing) do you run the risk of really terrible legislation in the next Congress?"
Bush himself appeared to indicate he hoped to get some version of his plan enacted by Congress this year, although the absence of specific details made it unclear what a bill would include.
"Decisions with such far-reaching impact should not be left to unelected regulators and judges," he said in reference to the EPA's newly affirmed authority. "Such decisions should be debated openly and made by the elected representatives of the people they affect. The American people deserve an honest assessment of the costs, benefits and feasibility of any proposed solution."
As for principles that should be embodied in any legislation, Bush stressed that "the wrong way is to jeopardise our energy and economic security by abandoning nuclear power and our nation's huge reserves of coal."
"The right way," he went on, "is to promote more emission-free nuclear power and encourage investments necessary to produce electricity from coal without releasing carbon into the air."
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Albion Monitor April
17, 2008 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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