Monday, April 28, 2008

Bush Warming Proposal Gets Mixed Reviews

Apr 16: President Bush laid out the Administration's latest strategy on controlling greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and its relationship to domestic proposals being advanced in Congress and international proposals being developed in the aftermath of the so-called "Bali Roadmap." The President's plan was announced in advance of the Administration-led, third "Major Economies" meeting being held in Paris France, April 17-18, 2008. The meeting of major economies on energy and climate brought together Germany, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, South Korea, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Britain, Russia and South Africa, as well as the UN, the European Union (EU) and the IEA.

The essence of the President's proposal was to set a new national goal to stop the growth of U.S. GHG emissions by 2025; pursue an economy-wide strategy that builds on existing programs (i.e. clean coal, carbon sequestration, nuclear power, energy efficiency, and alternative fuels) and adopts policies that spur investment in the new technologies. The goal and efforts would constitute the "America's national plan" and the U.S. would include its plan in a binding international agreement, so long as other major economies include their plans in such an agreement. Each nations' plan would recognize different strategies, goals and polices reflective of individual unique energy resources and economic circumstances.

In announcing the strategy, President Bush said, "I believe that Congressional debate should be guided by certain core principles and a clear appreciation that there is a wrong way and a right way to approach reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Bad legislation would impose tremendous costs on our economy and on American families without accomplishing the important climate change goals we share."

He said, "The wrong way is to raise taxes, duplicate mandates, or demand sudden and drastic emissions cuts that have no chance of being realized and every chance of hurting our economy. The right way is to set realistic goals for reducing emissions consistent with advances in technology, while increasing our energy security and ensuring our economy can continue to prosper and grow.

"The wrong way is to sharply increase gasoline prices, home heating bills for American families and the cost of energy for American businesses. The right way is to adopt policies that spur investment in the new technologies needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions more cost-effectively in the longer term without placing unreasonable burdens on American consumers and workers in the short term.

"The wrong way is to jeopardize our energy and economic security by abandoning nuclear power and our nation's huge reserves of coal. The right way is to promote more emission-free nuclear power and encourage the investments necessary to produce electricity from coal without releasing carbon into the air.

"The wrong way is to unilaterally impose regulatory costs that put American businesses at a disadvantage with their competitors abroad -- which would simply drive American jobs overseas and increase emissions there. The right way is to ensure that all major economies are bound to take action and to work cooperatively with our partners for a fair and effective international climate agreement.

"The wrong way is to threaten punitive tariffs and protectionist barriers, start a carbon-based global trade war, and to stifle the diffusion of new technologies. The right way is to work to make advanced technology affordable and available in the developing world -- by lowering trade barriers, creating a global free market for clean energy technologies, and enhancing international cooperation and technology investment."

President Bush reminded that "When I took office seven years ago, we faced a problem. A number of nations around the world were preparing to implement the flawed approach of Kyoto Protocol. In 1997, the United States Senate took a look at the Kyoto approach and passed a resolution opposing this approach by a 95 to nothing vote. . . So the United States has launched -- and the G8 has embraced -- a new process that brings together the countries responsible for most of the world's emissions. We're working toward a climate agreement that includes the meaningful participation of every major economy -- and gives none a free ride."

Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA), the authors of the major Senate initiative on climate change, the Climate Security Act (S. 2191), issued a joint release on the President's proposal. Senator Lieberman said, "I share the President's preference of a market-based approach over carbon taxes. I remain encouraged by EPA's finding last month that the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act will achieve strong results in curbing global warming without imposing economic hardship on Americans [
See WIMS 3/17/08]. I don't think that the President's statement will have any negative impact on our efforts to attract votes to the Climate Security Act on the Senate floor this June. I remain confident about the prospects of this critical legislation." Senator Warner said, "The President's announcement today that he supports measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. is welcome news as the Senate prepares to consider climate change legislation this summer. This personally delivered message is recognition that a growing problem faces America -- and the world -- caused by erratic fluctuations in climate, particularly temperature variations and rainfall patterns. I am pleased the President is prepared to engage on this vital issue, both on Capitol Hill and on the international stage."

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair of the Senate Environment and Pubic Works Committee said, ""The President's plan to have America stand by while greenhouse gases reach dangerous levels and threaten America and the world is worse than doing nothing - it is the height of irresponsibility. I strongly believe that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee bill will not only make our nation a leader in the global warming challenge, but it will trigger an American economic renaissance."

Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), Chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, was highly critical of the President and said, "By the time President Bush’s plan finally starts to cut global warming emissions, the planet will already be cooked. The President’s short-term goal is to do nothing, his medium-term goal is to do nothing much, and his long-term goal is to do nothing close to what’s needed to save the planet from global warming.

"He claims we must cooperate with other countries on climate-friendly technology, but his administration didn’t even send a participant to a major 60-country renewable energy meeting in Berlin last week. How can the American people have faith in this President’s climate goals when he doesn’t even show faith in his own rhetoric? According to the head of the Nobel-winning IPCC, global emissions need to peak by 2015, and reduce after that. Waiting until 2025 just to stop the increases in U.S. emissions spells disaster for the planet. . ."

Major environmental organizations including Environmental Defense, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation and Earthjustice all issued statements denouncing the President's proposal (See links below). As a representative example, NRDC said, "In his eighth year, the president has just proposed a path on global warming weaker than the campaign pledge he made in September of 2000 and broke three months into office. Not content with blocking action over the last eight years, this president is trying to lock in pollution growth for the next 15.

“His approach would extend his dangerous legacy on global warming far beyond his time in office. His statement seems a thinly disguised attempt to derail global warming solutions currently moving in Congress. The Lieberman-Warner bill is set to be voted on in June and it should be strengthened and passed, not attacked by this do-nothing president. While the Lieberman-Warner bill would reduce emissions 25-32 percent from 2005 levels by 2025, in line with what scientists say is needed, the president’s new goal would allow continued emissions growth of as much as 10 percent or more. . ."

In response to a question at a press briefing from France on the Major Economies meeting James Connaughton, Chairman, White House Council on Environmental Quality and key Administration spokesperson on climate change said, "What the President did was try to squarely describe where we understand the peak point to be, and it's going to be in that 2025 period -- and for two very straightforward reasons: One is to get emissions to peak in the power generation sector, you need nuclear plants, you need carbon captured storage, and you need renewable power on the gigawatt scale. It will take us 10 to 15 years to get to the point where that's going to be possible, and it's -- that's just straight up math and permitting and getting plants built and financed.

"On the transportation side, to get us into a absolute decline mode, which will occur sometime around 2025, to get us there we have to shift to second-generation cellulosic fuels, because those have the lower carbon profile that displaces the CO emissions associated from gasoline use; and we have to use more electricity in our vehicle mix, and that's going to require the very same low-carbon power plants that I just described.

"We cannot as a country magically put all that out there in the next five to 10 years, but what the President's strategy has done is ensure that that's going to occur at the time that we've determined. If somebody has other views on making that come faster, we welcome that debate. . ."

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Pubic Works Committee issued a statement saying the President's speech rejected the Lieberman -Warner S. 2191 bill. Senator Inhofe said, "I applaud the President for outlining a bold alternative climate initiative that rejects the concept that the United States must adopt economically ruinous cap-and-trade legislation such as the Lieberman-Warner bill that would significantly drive up the already skyrocketing cost of energy on the American public. Today, as American families and American workers are faced with an economic downturn, the slumping housing market, and rising gas prices, they are unlikely to tolerate a ‘de-stimulus’ climate bill that will not have the sponsors’ purported impact on temperatures but will further exacerbate economic pain. Rather, the President outlined the only politically and economically sustainable path forward, one that embraces and develops new technologies."

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) agreed with the President's proposal and said, "“President Bush has laid out a constructive and balanced set of principles to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Manufacturers seek climate change solutions that offer significant environmental benefits without undue risk to jobs and the economy. Technology should play a leading role in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

"U.S.-based manufacturers are dedicated to greater environmental sustainability. But as President Bush noted, America can’t do it alone. Every major economy must establish a national goal for cutting the emissions believed responsible for climate change. China recently surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. But China is not engaged in emission reduction efforts, nor is India or other fast-growing developing economies. The net effect is that any sacrifice made by Americans will be overwhelmed by emissions increases in other countries.

"Manufacturers agree that all responsible climate change approaches depend on accelerating the development and deployment of new technologies. Enacting new greenhouse gas regulations and mandates in the absence of commercially available carbon-reduction technology would spell disaster for the U.S. economy. In lieu of regulations, lawmakers should focus on encouraging the development of new technologies. . ."

A report on the meeting from China View news service said, "The third Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change (MEM) closed here on Friday with no substantial progress and no agreement reached on specific greenhouse gas reduction goals. . . representatives agreed to hold two more rounds of meetings in May and June. . ." It reported the Bush, "reduction plan won little applause. Instead, it drew criticism from many representatives at the meeting, who voiced their disappointment at the U.S. proposal, saying there was little new in it. According to estimates by Chief Economist for the International Energy Agency (IEA) Fatih Birol, even if all of Bush's reduction measures were able to be implemented, carbon-dioxide emissions in the United States is likely to increase 23 percent by 2025 compared with the 1990 level."

A report from the London-based "BusinessGreen" indicated, "Paris climate talks end in deadlock… again." The news report said, "negotiators were again at loggerheads over proposals for a binding target to cut emissions by 50 per cent by 2050. The EU, Japan and Canada have all been lobbying hard for such a target to be set, but representatives of developing economies at the talks said they would not sign up to such a goal until they see more action from the US to cut emissions. . ."

Access the President's speech and link to a fact sheet on the proposal and related information (
click here). Access the transcript of the press briefing on the Major Economies meeting (click here). Access the State Department website on the Major Economies meetings (click here). Access a release from Senators Lieberman and Warner (click here). Access a release from Senator Boxer (click here). Access a release from Representative Markey (click here). Access a release from Environmental Defense (click here). Access a release from Sierra Club (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access a release from National Wildlife Federation (click here). Access a release from Earthjustice (click here). Access a release from Senator Inhofe (click here). Access a release from NAM (click here). Access the China View account (click here). Access the BusinessGreen account (click here). Access various other media reports on the meeting (click here). [*Climate]