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Kyoto Gets Gored
Al Gore flew into Kyoto this morning -- allegedly not to solicit funds at the more than 100,000 Buddhist temples here -- and immediately delivered a "Blame America First"sermon. Few evangelists could have evoked a more gloomy apocalyptic vision (storms, floods, droughts, loss of biodiversity), all brought about by the wasteful consumptive ways of modern man. This was a favorable forum for Al Gore and he took advantage of it -- playing to his environmental constituency and counting on the fact that the American people would hear very little about his remarks in Kyoto.
Gore's recommendations echoed the other Malthusian policies being bandied about in Kyoto: There should be less of us, we should consume less and we should produce material goods by less energy intensive means. The cost of each of these policies was naturally not discussed.
Gore waxed eloquently about the plight of the poor countries, the need for the United States to take the first step, the potential of appropriate technology (How to Lose 30% of That Messy Energy Fat with No Pain!) and stated that he had instructed the American negotiators to be more "flexible." The US, Gore stated, would move ahead with coercive energy conservation steps whether an acceptable treaty was achieved or not.
Gore in Earth in the Balance had argued that those who refuse to accept the reality of global warming are akin to those who allowed Hitler to come to power. Moderating his remarks somewhat today, he compared climate treaty critics to the tobacco executives who lied about the health effects of cigarettes.
Fortunately, America's Constitution divides powers -- the Administration can propose but Congress must approve. And the Vice President did not amuse the congressional delegation, which came to Kyoto to keep the Chief Druid in check. They were not pleased with Gore's attack on their character and were even less amused by Gore's seeming willingness to evade the Constitution. Science Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner noted that his hearings had found very credible expert opposition to the global warming theory. He was not pleased with Gore's ad hominem attacks.
Senator Chuck Hagel was quick to point out that the Byrd-Hagel Resolution said some very clear things - the U.S. would not cripple its economy, the U.S. would not penalize energy use without developing nations doing the same. The Nebraska Senator also noted that while the unanimous vote (95-0) might overstate support for that resolution, the fact that over 65 senators had co-sponsored the resolution was evidence of very strong Senate views. Green Senators Lieberman, Chafee and Kerry were not co-sponsors of this resolution and have little credibility in discussing it.
One can only hope that Senator Hagel, Congressmen Sensenbrenne, Dingell and the other reasonable members of this delegation will take the next step and ask that no Kyoto Treaty be signed. Minor changes and rhetoric cannot remedy this treaty. Moreover, with the Asian economies now in serious disarray, any steps to raise energy prices and to further reduce car demand would be foolish. Much work remains to be done.
Implications of Global Energy Rationing
A startling picture is beginning to emerge regarding COP-3's discussions of emissions trading, joint implementation and credits. The Europeans have answered criticisms over its emissions "bubble" (which allows low-emissions European nations to offset the higher emissions of other European nations) by arguing that other countries should also form "energy suppression" trading blocs. Do so, they argued, and you too can benefit from internal emissions trading. Thus, a Kyoto agreement might well encourage the creation of new trading blocs throughout the world.
What the energy-suppression architects seem to envisage is a brand new global monetary system made up of energy-usage "currency." Nations that don't produce energy would be rewarded with wealth transfers from countries that do. The climate treaty would require a compliance agency functioning much like a world central bank to process transactions of green "currency" and to regulate emissions banking activities.
Past political attempts to create such special currency regimes - food stamps, agricultural allotment systems, oil import quotas, and agricultural curtailment schemes have encountered severe problems. A political fable goes: the farmer contacts the USDA, noting that last year he had not grown 100 head of cattle. He found this so profitable that next year he plans to not grow 200 head of cattle. His question was: what kind of cattle shouldn't he grow?
The complexities of an energy curtailment system with its negative production quotas of varying types of energy all measured from an arbitrary baseline would dwarf any problems associated with past efforts. Nonetheless, advocates for emission trading roam the halls here at Kyoto, chortling over the rents they will earn if such a regime ever comes into play.
Interestingly, the Kyoto discussions -- which will have massive impacts on the economies and trading patterns of the world -- are taking place with almost no participation by national trade or economics ministries. Environmental ministers head almost all of the 165 national delegations represented here. Yet such agencies are the only groups who will clearly benefit from increased environmental controls. Certainly, the burden of any emission reduction program would be borne by those individuals, regions and sectors targeted - not by these bureaucrats. And the agency won't care; after all, an environmental agency is responsible only for "saving the planet," not for advancing human welfare. Allowing the green fox to guard the economic hen house is not smart, and, when the price tag for Kyoto comes in, some heads may yet roll.