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Clinton’s Multi-billion Dollar Plan
On January 30, the Clinton administration announced a $6.3 billion emissions reduction plan. The budget for fiscal year 1999 will include $3.6 billion in tax credits and $2.7 billion in new research and development funding over the next five years. The plan will focus on four areas: buildings, industry, transportation, and electricity.
The package will include tax credits worth $100 million for rooftop solar systems. Homebuilders can receive tax credits for 15 percent of the cost of the systems with a maximum credit of $2,000 for photovoltaic systems and $1,000 for solar water heating systems.
To encourage industry support, nine hundred million dollars worth of tax credits will be made available for business firms who install combined heat and power systems. The tax credit will be ten percent of the cost of investment.
Energy-efficient buildings will receive a tax credit worth twenty percent of the investment subject to a cap and purchasers of new energy efficient homes will receive a tax credit equal to 1 percent of the purchase price up to a maximum credit of $2,000.
The Clinton administration will also propose a tax credit for fuel-efficient vehicles worth $700 million. Vehicles with triple the base fuel economy standard would be eligible for a tax credit worth $4,000 per vehicle. A proposal to equalize tax treatment of parking and transit and vanpool benefits will cost $100 million.
Finally, the administration will propose tax credits for electricity produced from wind and biomass worth $200 million (BNA Daily Environment Report, February 2, 1998).
Senator Helms Enters the Fray
In a letter to President Clinton, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC) accused the President of "unwisely and unnecessarily" delaying Senate consideration of several international treaties. Helms said that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will not consider the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty until the President submits the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate for ratification.
"We owe it to the American people to let them know sooner rather than later, whether they will be subject to the terms of this treaty," Helms wrote. A Clinton spokesperson responded that "the administration has no intention of submitting the Kyoto Protocol until there is meaningful participation from developing countries" (Greenwire, January 23, 1998).
Foreign Policy Experts Oppose Kyoto Protocol
Members of the Committee to Preserve American Security and Sovereignty (COMPASS) wrote a letter to President Clinton opposing the Kyoto Protocol. The letter reads in part, "lessons we have learned from (past) negotiations in arms control, trade and other areas . . . have been ignored or forgotten in the Kyoto process." The letter argues that the Protocol "threatens to limit the exercise of American military power." Excerpts of the letter appeared in a full page ad in the Washington Times on January 27, 1998.
"Political" Scientist Discusses Kyoto
Former chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Bert Bolin recently offered his assessment of the Kyoto Protocol in Science (January 16, 1998). Bolin estimates that under the Kyoto Protocol atmospheric concentrations of CO2 will rise by approximately 29 parts per million by volume (ppmv). "It therefore seems likely," writes Bolin, "that another international effort will be required well before 2010 to consider whether further measures are warranted."
Bolin also discusses the problem of how to count carbon sinks in determining compliance. Though the protocol asks the IPCC to resolve this issue Bolin argues that, "It is . . . not clear how to devise satisfactory methods to achieve what is envisaged in the protocol."
Bolin concludes that, "The Kyoto conference did not achieve much with regard to limiting the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere." However, he sees the conference as a good first step towards the ultimate objective, "to achieve … stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system." Bolin did not, however, define "dangerous interference."
Coal is Safe from Cuts
According to Bob Armstrong, assistant secretary for land and minerals management at the Department of Interior, the Kyoto Protocol will not require reductions in coal use. Speaking at a DOI conference on the future of coal, Armstrong said that reductions in greenhouse gases can be achieved through better technological advances in fuel efficiency and pollution abatement (Greenwire, January 22, 1998). Of course the federal government has already spent billions of dollars on clean coal technologies with little success.
No Energy Taxes for Ireland
The Irish Business and Employers' Confederation (IBEC) will oppose energy taxes at the national and European Union level to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. IBEC argues that unilateral imposition of energy taxes would have "a serious detrimental effect on the competitiveness of European and Irish industry" (The Irish Times, January 28, 1998).
More on 1997 Temperatures
On January 8, federal climatologist Tom Karl announced that 1997 was the warmest year on record. The World Climate Report (WCR) disputes the claim. One of Karl’s graphics, for example, show that most of the warming over the last 50 years occurred in Siberia and northwestern North America, the two coldest air masses in the world. Little or no warming has been observed anywhere else. While this raises the global average temperature it’s not really global warming.
The WCR argues further that the Karl’s data is a "blend of global temperatures that mixes apples
and oranges." First, the land temperature was about the fifth highest on record. The ocean temperatures, which pushed global average temperatures to record highs, were taken from buoys that deployed to better measure El Niño. But better data on the above-the-ocean temperature is available from the Night Marine Air Temperature which is more consistent with both the land and satellite records. The WCR article can be found at www.nhes.com .
Deaths From Heat and Cold
Between 600 and 700 Americans die each year of excessive cold and 240 die per year from excessive heat in normal years. Those most at risk from temperature extremes are the homeless, poor, elderly, those with severe health problems, and those who lack proper nutrition, housing and clothing. During abnormal years, deaths from temperature extremes can increase to well over a thousand for each extreme (Scientific American, February 1998).
The lesson that should be taken from these statistics is not that we must prevent temperature extremes but rather we should improve society’s wealth so as to avoid the adverse consequences. Those who have proper heating and air-conditioning, nutrition and shelter are much less likely to suffer from extreme temperatures. The Kyoto Protocol will reduce wealth, and therefore, increase mortality from temperature extremes.
Ice Flows and Ocean Currents
Much has been made of possible disruptions to ocean currents as a result of global warming. One fear is that melting ice sheets will change the density of sea water, disrupting deep ocean currents and cooling Europe’s climate. The British Antarctic Survey (BAS), however, disputes these claims. According to Dr. David Vaughn a glaciologist with the BAS global warming would have to continue at the same rate for the next 300 years before there would be any affect on Britain’s climate (The Evening Standard, January 29, 1998).
For a good overview on the shortcomings of the surface temperature record see www.vision.net.au/~daly/surftemp.htm . The article discusses the urban heat island effect, site maintenance problems, geographical spread, ocean temperatures, etc.
Thomas Gale Moore, a member of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s board of directors, has written a book, Climate of Fear: Why We Shouldn't Worry about Global Warming that will soon be published by Cato Institute. Ordering details will be forthcoming at Cato’s website at www.cato.org .
The Competitive Enterprise Institute has produced a book and a highlights video based on The Costs of Kyoto conference held in July 1997. Both the book and the video are available for $15 or buy both for $25. To order call CEI at (202) 331-1010, or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .