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Bush Decides Against Regulating CO2
President George W. Bush announced on March 13 that his administration would not seek congressional approval to regulate carbon dioxide emissions produced by electric utilities. In a letter to Senators Hagel, Craig, Helms, and Roberts, Bush said that “important new information” from an Energy Information Administration study “concluded that including caps on carbon dioxide emissions as part of a multiple emissions strategy would lead to…significantly higher electricity prices…”
“At a time when California has already experienced energy shortages, and other Western states are worried about price and availability of energy this summer, we must be very careful not to take actions that could harm consumers,” Bush continued in the letter. “This is especially true given the incomplete state of scientific knowledge of the causes of, and solutions to, global climate change and the lack of commercially available technologies for removing and storing carbon dioxide.”
The president also made it clear that he does support changes to the Clean Air Act that would allow regulation using the “multi-pollutant strategy” for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury. Such an approach is part of a “comprehensive and balanced national energy policy that takes into account the importance of improving air quality.”
Bush stated at the beginning of his letter to the four Senators that, “As you know, I oppose the Kyoto Protocol….” He concluded, “I look forward to working with you and others to address global climate change issues in the context of a national energy policy that protects our environment, consumers, and economy.”
The beginning of the controversy was reported in the March 7 issue of the Cooler Heads Newsletter. Members of the Cooler Heads Coalition played significant roles in calling attention to the issue and in convincing the Bush-Cheney Administration to decide against regulating carbon dioxide emissions. A number of Senators and Representatives, in addition to the four listed above, also raised their concerns. They included Senators Inhofe, Nickles, and Voinovich and Representatives DeLay, Barton, Knollenberg, Emerson, and John Peterson.
Reactions to the President’s Decision
President Bush’s decision not to regulate CO2 emissions prompted immediate reactions from supporters of the Kyoto Protocol around the world. Michael Oppenheimer of Environmental Defense accused Bush of rejecting “the judgment of the world’s leading climate scientists.”
Greenpeace was harsher. “When you put two oil men in the White House, I guess this is what you have to expect,” said Greenpeace Climate Policy Director Bill Hare. “Apparently Mrs. Whitman’s environmentally responsible position has not carried the day, and we can expect the Neanderthal, head-in-the-sand rhetoric of Bush to prevail in this administration.” Hare also accused Bush of “rejecting the worldwide scientific consensus on global warming” and “listening to listening to extreme ‘Flat Earth’ minority viewpoints on the science.”
Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope accused President Bush of “bowing to big business instead of honoring his commitment to our children.” And from the Senate, Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) showed his ignorance by claiming the Bush’s decision would lead to dirtier air. “In this case, turnabout is foul play and will mean foul air,” he said at a press conference decrying Bush’s decision.
On the other hand, a number of Cooler Heads Coalition members sent out press releases praising President Bush’s decision. These included Consumer Alert, Citizens for a Sound Economy, the National Center for Public Policy Research, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Although the majority of newspapers across the country criticized Bush’s decision, several applauded it. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution (March 15, 2001) said, “Refusing to call for reductions in CO2 emissions is the most sensible step the president could make.”
It also said, “Last we heard, one needs to establish that there is a problem before implementing a ‘solution.’ When this nation spends billions of dollars tackling an unnecessary task in the name of environmental protection, it diverts time, energy, money and attention from environmental issues where we truly could make a difference. Environmental groups lose credibility when they cry ‘wolf’ and denounce the president, who insists environmental policy be based on facts and scientific research.”
The Orange County Register also chimed in quickly (March 16): “The Bush administration made a correct decision—and in some ways a brave one—when it decided not to ask for emissions reductions of carbon dioxide from American power plants. It represented a willingness to listen to valid concerns about the cost of regulation, to look at the state of science on global warming rather than responding to arguments based on emotional convictions, and to make a common-sense decision that reflects the interests of the vast majority of American consumers rather than an insulated policy elite….Perhaps most unusually for a group of politicians, Mr. Bush and his advisers were willing to say forthrightly that a previous position had been a mistake and to take the heat for admitting it was a mistake….”
Investor’s Business Daily on March 19 noted the common sense behind Bush’s decision. “[T]he evidence on CO2’s contribution to global warming is far from clear. Every creature on the earth emits CO2 when they exhale - and they’ve been doing so since the first pollywogs climbed out on land. It’s also far from clear that some global warming wouldn’t benefit mankind. Longer crop seasons could help underdeveloped countries feed their citizens. Warmer climes could reduce stress and mental illness. More arable land could be freed up. Less fossil fuel would be used for heat, meaning less pollution.”
The March 21 Kansas City Star weighed costs and benefits: “Though nobody knows with certainty whether global warming is real or whether it’s really a threat if it is, what is known with certainty is that raising the regulatory bar for carbon dioxide will raise the price of electric power at a time when America can least afford it.”
Finally, criticism from abroad has been heavy, especially from Europe. The quote that most clearly reveals the European agenda at the Kyoto negotiations came from Margot Wallstrom, the European Union’s commissioner for the environment. “This is not a simple environmental issue where you can say it is an issue where the scientists are not unanimous. This is about international relations, this is about economy, about trying to create a level playing field for big businesses throughout the world. You have to understand what is at stake and that is why it is serious.”
Energy Secretary Spence Abraham began to lay out the administration’s energy policies in a major speech at the U. S. Chamber of Commerce’s National Energy Summit on March 19 in Washington, D. C. He left no doubt that the Bush Administration intends to keep its campaign promises to push policies that will promote more affordable and abundant energy supplies for American consumers.
Abraham characterized the Clinton-Gore Administration’s energy policy as, “You can’t find it, you can’t transport it, and even if you get it, we don’t want you to use it. Through neglect or complacency or ideology, this approach has led us to the crisis we face today.”
He addressed three key points that the administration’s policies must address:
· “First, demand for energy is rising across the board, but particularly for natural gas and electricity;
· “Second, supplies are being limited by a regulatory structure that, in many respects, has failed to keep pace with advances in technology and an uncertain political environment that often discourages investment in desperately needed facilities;
· “And third, our energy infrastructure – that network of the generators, transmission lines, refineries and pipelines that convert raw resources into usable fuel – is woefully antiquated and inadequate to meet our future needs.”
America’s demand for energy will continue to increase, according to Abraham. He quoted forecasts from DOE’s Energy Information Administration that demand for oil will increase by 33 percent over the next 20 years, for natural gas by 62 percent, and for electricity by 45 percent.
It is difficult to meet these demands, however, when capacity is lacking. “Since 1980,” said Abraham, “the number of American refineries has been cut in half. There hasn’t been a new refinery built in the United States in over 25 years.” Much of the problem is due to government interference. “New regulatory interpretations limit the ability of existing refineries to expand capacity,” he said. “Add to that regulations that require the production of more than 15 different types of gasoline – and you have a refining industry strained to capacity, leaving us dangerously vulnerable to regional supply disruptions and price spikes.”
To meet America’s rising demand for electricity over the next 20 years, said Abraham, the U.S. will have construct 1,300 new power plants or 65 per year. And he added that if history is a guide, then this may be too conservative an estimate. Abraham reiterated coal’s importance to electricity generation and pledged that, “The administration will not regulate coal out of existence, and we will not support measures that will threaten electricity supplies and significantly raise electricity prices.”
Finally, Abraham noted the importance of a reliable and affordable supply of energy. “This nation’s last three recessions have all been tied to rising energy prices – and there is strong evidence that the latest crisis is already having a negative effect.”
California’s power crisis is causing layoffs and companies to move to states with reliable energy supplies. Abraham noted that “Intel’s CEO Craig Barrett announced that the world’s leading chipmaker won’t be expanding in California: ‘As long as California is a Third World country,’ Barrett said, ‘we won’t build $2 billion manufacturing plants here.’” Other regions in the country are also in danger of experiencing California-style crises, Abraham warned.
Secretary Abraham held a press conference at the U. S. Chamber immediately after his speech. Over 60 reporters attended, but there was not a single question about the obvious conflict between the administration’s energy policies and the Kyoto Protocol.
Satellites Spot Greenhouse Effect
In a major non-news story that received major press and broadcast coverage, a paper by a team of scientists at Imperial College, London published in the March 15, 2001 issue of Nature finds data from satellites provides the first “direct observational evidence” that the greenhouse effect is intensifying as a result of manmade greenhouse gas emissions.
“However,” according to a CNN story (www.cnn.com ), “the study did not tackle whether Earth’s surface temperature is actually increasing. In fact, whether this greenhouse effect will lead to global warming or global cooling is unclear, the study scientists said.”
If the claims about widespread scientific certainty about global warming are true, then why does Nature bemoan the poor quality of climate data? Nature argues in a March 15 article that, "There is also a small chance that none of the IPCC’s scenarios will come close to reality." Why? Because, "The accuracy of any model depends significantly on the quality of the underlying raw data. The problem is, the quality is patchy."
The Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) was created in 1992 to solve this problem. But there are serious flaws in the system, according to Nature. With only 1,000 stations in operation, coverage is sparse. It is mostly confined to rich industrialized countries, while Africa, South America and Asia, as well as remote polar regions in Russia and Canada go largely unmeasured. “Through misreporting, instrumental drifts and biases, unreliable communication infrastructures or political unrest, about half the world’s climate data potential is lost or corrupted each month,” says Nature. Part of the problem is the high cost of the program. A single GCOS station costs up to $500,000 per year to operate.
Moreover, “Sea-based climate observation and ocean monitoring, which is likely to add significantly to our knowledge of what drives atmospheric processes, is only just beginning.”
· The efforts of the Cooler Heads Coalition and its member groups to convince the Bush Administration to oppose regulating CO2 emissions have been recognized by the environmental movement. The Clean Air Trust on March 15 awarded its “Villain of the Month” award to Cooler Heads Coalition chairman Myron Ebell. The Trust’s press release (www.cleanairtrust.org ) cited the “furious lobbying charge” of the Cooler Heads Coalition and described it as “a motley array of radical anti-clean air groups, mostly funded by business, with ties to the extreme right wing of the Republican party.”
Ebell accepted the award in a letter (www.cei.org ) to the Clean Air Trust, but questioned whether the Trust really believed that carbon dioxide was a pollutant since it isn’t included on the list of air pollutants on its web site. Past winners of the Villain of the Month award include Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, Sen. George Voinovich, American Electric Power, Exxon Mobil, and Cinergy.
THE COOLER HEADS COALITION
Alexis de Tocqueville Institution
Americans for Tax Reform
American Legislative Exchange Council
American Policy Center
Association of Concerned Taxpayers
Center for Security Policy
Citizens for a Sound Economy
Citizens for the Integrity of Science
Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Defenders of Property Rights
Frontiers of Freedom
George C. Marshall Institute
National Center for Policy Analysis
National Center for Public Policy Research
Pacific Research Institute
Small Business Survival Committee