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Vol. IV, No. 13
Vol. IV, No. 13
June 28, 2000
Gore Plans to Implement Kyoto Protocol If Elected President
Vice President Al Gore has announced the first part of his sweeping proposal to “develop and deploy the best technologies in the world to reduce our dependence on unreliable and expensive imported sources of oil; protect the country from the threat of climate change and disruptions in electrical power; and make our air and water cleaner to stop the spread of health problems caused by pollution, such as asthma. To innovators everywhere, Al Gore is saying -- if you invest in America's future, we will invest in you.”
Or in other words, if you won’t support the Kyoto Protocol we’ll buy your support. The plan is pork barrel politics at its worst. It would “dedicate part of the expected budget surplus to create a new National Energy Security and Environment Trust Fund,” that would “support private and public efforts to develop and deploy technologies that will reduce America’s dependence on big oil companies and on unreliable energy, to clean up our environment, grow our economy, and create new jobs.”
The “trust fund” would provide tax incentives families and small businesses that purchase energy efficient automobiles, homes, appliances and industrial equipment. It would also give subsidies to auto manufacturers to develop “a new generation of clean cars, trucks, buses and sport utility vehicles.”
Other beneficiaries of taxpayer-funded largesse would be electric utilities, renewable energy producers, farmers, public transportation, and labor unions. Part of the trust fund includes an “Energy Security and Environment Trust,” that would provide $68 billion to energy companies for the development of clean energy projects. Further details can be found at www.algore2000.com.
The Global Climate Coalition, a coalition of trade associations that are opposed to the Kyoto Protocol, praised the initiative. In a press release GCC executive director Glenn Kelly said, “We’re very pleased to see candidate Gore endorsing the GCC’s positive agenda of market-based solutions, innovative new technologies and increased efficiency and conservation.”
Gore’s Conflict of Interest
It’s not surprising that Vice President Al Gore’s initiative would be a major financial boon to energy companies. According to a UPI (June 28, 2000) story, “The proposal…to pay power plants to cut pollution was developed with the assistance of a Gore adviser who also works for large power companies that could get millions in taxpayer subsidies under the plan.”
The adviser, Kathleen McGinty, is a former Gore staffer and chairman of the President’s Council of Environmental Quality under President Clinton. She now works for Troutman Sanders, “a law firm that represents several major U.S. power companies,” notes UPI. “Two of those clients – American Electric Power and Southern Company – confirmed Tuesday that McGinty is one of their consultants on environmental issues.”
McGinty defended herself saying, “I provide advice and have provided advice to anyone who asks me. Does the vice president ask for my views? Absolutely. Do people in the business community ask for my views? Absolutely. And is that anything new? Absolutely not.” It may not be new but it certainly doesn’t look good. Taxpayers might think it wrong for a person who represents the interests of energy companies to help devise a plan that would transfer billions of dollars from taxpayers to those companies.
Knollenberg Provision Passes House
On June 21 the House of Representatives passed the VA-HUD and Independent Agencies appropriations bill for FY2001. The bill once again includes the Knollenberg provision, which prohibits EPA from taking actions to implement the Kyoto Protocol. New report language clarifies the intent of the provision. An amendment offered by Rep. John Olver (D-Mass.) and adopted by the House on a 314 to 108 vote further clarifies that the provision does not prohibit any congressionally-authorized EPA programs.
According to the BNA Daily Environment Report (June 20, 2000), “no political breakthrough was reached,” at a week long meeting of the subsidiary bodies to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn, despite claims of “significant progress.”
Michael Zammit Cutajar, general secretary of the UNFCCC said that the meeting was successful in identifying obstacles to completing negotiations in The Hague at COP-6 in November. “A lot of work lies ahead,” Cutajar said. “Political leaders throughout the world will have to work at full capacity for the completion of an international strategy against global warming in order to reach an effective agreement in The Hague.”
There are still several areas of disagreement. The European Union and the United States have still not resolved their dispute on the extent to which countries should be allowed to use flexible mechanisms. Moreover, Germany has come out against the use of sinks and the use of nuclear power under the Clean Development Mechanism. Saudi Arabia has “proved to be the most obstinate opponent of any climate control strategy,” notes BNA.
EU May Not Reach Kyoto Targets
An analysis published by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change of five European countries has found that only one of them will meet the targets agreed to under the Kyoto Protocol. The study was done by John Selwyn Gummer, MP, former UK Environment Minister and Chairman of the environmental consulting firm, Sancroft International Ltd., and Robert Moreland, also of Sancroft,
The five countries studied were Germany, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Austria, and Spain. Of the five, only the United Kingdom is expected to reach its target.
The study attributes the UK’s success to “fuel switching from coal to natural gas.” The UK’s Kyoto target is to lower greenhouse gases by 12.5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008 to 2012. Currently it is at 14.6 percent below.
Germany has also been successful in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, but will not likely meet its target of 21 percent below 1990 levels. Current levels are at 17 percent below. Germany lowered emissions by closing heavily polluting East German industries that weren’t financially viable. The other countries are nowhere near complying with their targets.
Senate Compromises on CAFE
The freeze on raising the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards will remain in place for now. The Senate reached a compromise that would continue the freeze but would allow the Department of Transportation and the National Academy of Sciences to study changes in CAFE standards.
Senator Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.) said that the compromise was “a big victory for Michigan” and Dan Becker, of the Sierra Club called it “a major victory for consumers and the environment” (Associated Press, June 19, 2000).
High Gas Prices Explained
There has been an acrimonious debate over whether higher gasoline prices in the Midwest are due to environmental regulations or to industry collusion. The debate has reached all the way to the presidential campaign, with Al Gore accusing big oil companies of collusion and price fixing.
A new report the by the Library of Congress’s Congressional Research Service has found no basis for the collusion charges, but instead points to significant regulatory impacts. According to the report, “It can be roughly estimated that 25 cents of the regional [Chicago/Milwaukee] price increase is due to transportation difficulties and another 25 cents, roughly estimated, could be due to the unique RFG [reformulated gas] situation in Chicago/Milwaukee…[T]he fact that RFG prices are above conventional gas suggests that the difference is due to the supply of RFG uniquely.”
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), chairman of the House Science Committee, and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said, “This report presents a strong case for the EPA granting relief – even on a temporary basis – for consumers from the new RFG requirements. Such an action would give the public some respite from these untenably high prices without harming the environment.”
Technology Partnerships Praised
On June 27, The Global Climate Coalition and the US Chamber of Commerce hosted a conference, “Building a Path Forward - The Role of Technology in Addressing Climate Issues.”
Government officials and industry leaders, from Edison Electric, the American Forest and Paper Association, ExxonMobil, The National Mining Association, and others, extolled the many successes of public-private voluntary partnerships in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to Jay Hakes, administrator of the Energy Information Administration until this month, the Department of Energy is involved in over 1500 voluntary projects, giving companies the opportunity surf on the cutting edge of their respective fields.
A second panel discussed the role of technology in reducing greenhouse emissions. Although many uncertainties exist, all participants agreed that technology has been crucially important in the past and will continue to be so in the future.
Dan Reicher, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency at the DOE, discussed his house, which can be heated and cooled for less than a dollar per day because of its efficient design. Reicher expects that similar technologies will soon be available to industry for use in reducing energy consumption.
Expert Commentaries on the National Assessment
The National Assessment on Climate Change, recently released for public comment, has come under fire for its alarmist tone and political bent. Much of that criticism, we now learn, comes from the technical reviewers of the report. A new report by David Wojick, himself a technical reviewer of the National Assessment, compiles comments from the technical reviews.
Two well known scientists, who support the global warming theory, are very critical of the report. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research argues that “There are major problems with the report, in terms of structure and the content.” He also notes that, “The two models used are quite different and give different results, so how can they both verify against the observed data?” Finally, “The article I referred to (elsewhere) on the use and abuse of climate models describes appropriate use of models. Here is a classic example of misuse and abuse of them.”
James Hansen of the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction points out that, “The projected 1% per year or 2- to 3-fold 21st century increase in CO2 assumed in this study may be pessimistic. From what I understand, it over predicts recent trends, and may not account for observed slowing of the rate of global population growth. I didn't find supporting evidence in the accompanying technical paper. Therefore, I think that it is overstated. Either cite empirical evidence or acknowledge uncertainties in this and other projections.”
Some of the comments were appropriately flippant. John Christy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville said the report seemed to be “written by a committee of Greenpeace, Ted Turner, Al Gore and Stephen King (for the horror lines). I saw no attempt at scientific objectivity.” Jae Edwards of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory commented that, “The current version of the report reads more like an advertising supplement to Time Magazine than a national assessment.” And later, “The example of flooding in New York is needlessly hyperbolic. If you want to go that route, and I don’t recommend it, why don’t you get out the old picture from the cover of Parade Magazine of the Statue of Liberty covered with water up to her arm pits.”
James Shuttleworth of University of Arizona said that, “Because the document retains the conventional ‘looming gloom’ perspective throughout, it will likely be rejected by the majority of the population as just another ‘tree huggers lobby piece’. If its purpose is just to provide a further prop to the Kyoto agreement, so be it.”
The report, “Not a Pretty Picture,” can be downloaded at www.greeningearthsociety.org.
CBS Hot Air Watch
Remember when polls showed that CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite was “the most-trusted man in America”? After his retirement, the avuncular Walter revealed that he believed in on-world government and lots of other leftist claptrap.
Cronkite’s successor, Dan Rather, is more impatient to share his political wisdom with the world. Not content with CBS News's stream of ridiculous stories connecting storms, floods, and droughts to global warming, Dan has now taken his fascination with natural disasters to the op-ed page of the Houston Chronicle.
Surprisingly, it turns out that Dan is actually opposed to more storms and other extreme weather events. In a June 18 column, he opines that although the National Assessment is “not alarmist” (we think that’s a joke), it nonetheless is “a sobering document, giving us a glimpse into a future where higher temperatures, drought and flooding will reshape the American landscape.”
He cites the National Assessment as giving compelling reasons why the United States should ratify the Kyoto Protocol. He blames the Republican-controlled Senate for not ratifying the treaty, apparently not aware that according the Constitution the president must submit treaties to the Senate before the Senate can ratify them.
THE COOLER HEADS COALITION
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