Bush Shows Needed Leadership in Stopping Costly CO2 Plan

Published in the Detroit News

Published in the Detroit News

March 18, 2001

Title: Was Bush right to halt cutting carbon dioxide? President shows needed leadership by stopping costly regulatory plan


President George Bush’s affirmation this past week that neither the authority nor the justification exists to regulate as a “pollutant” man’s production of the natural gas carbon dioxide was an important victory for consumers. Despite immense pressure from environmental groups, rent-seeking corporations, holdover Clinton appointees and curious internal machinations, the nation narrowly dodged a costly, regressive and pointless regulatory scheme.


Despite disingenuous claims of a “reversal,” the decision not to pursue a new “global warming” regulatory agenda perfectly aligns with Bush campaign themes, one of which was restoring the lifeblood of abundant, affordable energy to our economy. He explicitly endorsed expanding energy exploration and providing flexible strategies for utility companies to meet their environmental obligations.


Introducing what even the Clinton Energy Department assessed as a wildly expensive carbon dioxide regime defied all efforts to make energy more abundant and affordable. Bush realized the conflict and changed course in time. Rare, sad to say, is the politician who takes a hit to show such leadership.


Though supporters of the plan point to a single line in a Bush campaign document, repeated in a Saginaw speech and appearing at first blush to endorse it, the real support for carbon dioxide regulations has come from the energy-suppression left now embedded in Democratic theology.


It was a favorite Al Gore prescription – advocated in “Earth in the Balance” – and is inexplicable other than as a first step toward adopting the extreme United Nations global warming treaty, the so-called Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change. That is because carbon dioxide is only posited as “harmful” under the theory of catastrophic global warming.


Kyoto, as signed by the Clinton administration, requires 38 developed nations to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions, among others. That requires drastic energy use cuts, meaning economic stagnation, fewer jobs and a lower future standard of living.


Because of our abundant natural resources, we produce approximately 80 percent of our energy from fossil sources – oil, natural gas and coal. Up to 50 percent of the electricity powering our economy derives from coal-fired plants, which emit a lot of carbon dioxide.


Still, man creates merely 2-3 percent of the planet’s total emissions. Capping man’s contribution inescapably means limiting energy production or jerking into a far less fossil-dependent fuel mix. The former is accomplished by, and the latter merely yields, steeply increased prices.


This is not speculation. This December, the Energy Information Administration, a nonpartisan research office inside the Department of Energy, finally released a long-suppressed analysis revealing that calling carbon dioxide a pollutant would cost upwards of $115 billion dollars annually. Thus, carbon dioxide (CO2) regulation would take more money out of consumers’ pockets than the tax cut just passed by the House of Representatives would return. Indeed, even this “limited” CO2 regulation costs the economy 20 percent more than the refund that passed the House, decried by Democrats as “enormous.”


Those who bear such costs are not, as some would intimate, faceless corporations with money to burn. Every person desiring to heat (or cool) their home or keep the lights on at night would pay for this proposal. Everyone relying for a livelihood upon an energy-intensive sector – say, automobile manufacturing – faces particular peril.


Carbon dioxide is the reason Al Gore argued the internal combustion engine must be eliminated. Detroit, with its dependence upon the transportation and heavy manufacturing sectors, would be sent into an economic tailspin by such a scheme. It is not greedy business interests but all who would pay for this folly.


Bush’s call for a scientific look before such an economic leap is called leadership. It isn’t surprising that some have forgotten what that looks like.


Cristopher C. Horner is an adjunct analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington, DC group.


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