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If you like the current high gas prices, then you're going to love the Kyoto Protocol. That's the United Nations global warming treaty negotiated by the Clinton-Gore administration in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, and signed by the President a year later.
Mr. Clinton hasn't submitted the treaty to the Senate for ratification, but the Environmental
Protection Agency and other federal departments have already begun to implement it. The U. S. agreed at Kyoto to cut carbon dioxide emissions 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012.
Carbon dioxide is produced by burning fossil fuels — coal, oil, and natural gas. So to reach the Kyoto limit, we're going to have to use a lot less gasoline, diesel and heating oil in the next decade. We'll have to reduce electricity consumptions too, because more than half our electricity is produced by coal-fired plants.
Estimates are that fossil fuel consumption must be cut by about one-third below what it would otherwise be in 2010. That's a huge reduction and there's only one practical way to make it: increase the price of energy.
How high will energy prices have to go in order to force people to use less and to make non-fossil fuel energy (such as solar or wind power) competitive? Most experts believe that Kyoto will require gas prices at the pump of $2 a gallon or even more. Replacing coal as the main fuel for making electricity will require similar price hikes.
The funny thing about this is that many of the politicians who have been complaining loudest about the current petroleum price spike also support the Kyoto Protocol. Some Kyoto supporters are probably just misinformed. They truly don't understand that Kyoto will require higher energy prices permanently.
President Clinton may fall into that category. He has maintained all along the fantasy that the U.S. can meet the Kyoto limits at low or even no cost. In his State of the Union address, the President said that, "New technologies make it possible to cut harmful emissions and provide even more growth."
On the other hand, many pro-Kyoto politicians are simply being hypocritical. Take Vice President AI Gore for example. In his 1992 book, "Earth in the Balance," then-Sen. Gore wrote that, "Higher taxes on fossil fuels ... is one of the logical first steps in changing our policies in a manner consistent with a more responsible approach to the environment."
Mr. Gore got his chance to make his dream come true when in 1993 as Vice President he cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate to pass a 4.3 cents per gallon increase in the gasoline tax.
Perhaps Mr. Gore has changed his opinion since he decided to run for President, but he claims not. On March 23, 1999, Gannett News Service quoted the Vice President as saying, "There is not a single passage in that book ("Earth in the Balance") that I disagree with, or would change."
If Vice President Gore now pretends that complying with the U.N. global warming treaty is going to be cheap and easy, then he has already convicted himself of hypocrisy with his own words. Again in "Earth in the Balance," he wrote that, "Minor shifts in policy, marginal, adjustments in ongoing programs, moderate improvements in laws and regulations, rhetoric offered in lieu of genuine change — these are all forms of appeasement, designed to satisfy the public's desire to believe that sacrifice, struggle and a wrenching transformation of society will not be necessary."
Don't expect to hear much talk like that in the presidential campaign.