Bush to Detail Climate Strategy

Daily News Article   —   Posted on April 16, 2008

(by Stephen Dinan, April 16, 2008, WashingtonTimes.com) – President Bush today will lay out how Congress should combat global warming, proposing a specific national goal for carbon-based pollution but rejecting a proposal by Democrats and Sen. John McCain to impose mandatory caps on industry to reduce greenhouse gases.

It marks a departure for Mr. Bush, who until now has fought new congressional mandates on carbon emissions.

According to several people briefed on the announcement, to be made in the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Bush will tell Congress he won’t accept any of the plans under review in the House and Senate.

Instead, he will tell Congress to pass a bill that won’t harm the economy and that includes a mechanism to make sure international economic competitors don’t gain an advantage. But he will for the first time propose a target for U.S. carbon emissions, making good on a pledge last year to take leadership on that issue.

The decision to change course was first reported by The Washington Times on Monday.

But the president has backed away from calling for the sort of cap-and-trade system favored by Democrats, including Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and by Mr. McCain, the Republicans’ presumed presidential nominee. That system would set a cap on total carbon emissions — a key greenhouse gas — and lower that level over time. Businesses would be allowed to trade credits for emissions among themselves, allowing the market to help regulate costs.

One person briefed on White House deliberations said a cap-and-trade program for electric utilities was dropped from the package yesterday, after the White House was flooded with complaints from industry officials and lobbyists.

“It got pulled out. It happened somewhere between this morning and five o’clock,” said the person, who said the Bush announcement still marks a significant departure from its policy for the last seven years.

“A threshold has been crossed here. They’ve abandoned the long-standing position in this debate, and that was, ‘The answer is technology, the answer is voluntary action, the answer is consumer-driven demand,’ and traded it for Congress’ idea of what might be the right answer.”

Many scientists say human activity is leading to an increase in greenhouse gases that could wreak havoc on the earth’s climate over the next century.

The White House announcement is timed to be a send-off for U.S. representatives headed to a meeting of representatives from major world economies, convening in Paris tomorrow and Friday.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said Mr. Bush will call for “long term and realistic intermediate goals for greenhouse gas emissions as part of our continuing leadership in the … process, which ensures that all major economies like France, Germany, China and India play a role in any international agreement so as to avoid a future Kyoto-like mistake.”

The administration argues Mr. Bush is being pressured by a looming regulatory train wreck. Environmental groups have sued to force action through existing laws such as the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The Environmental Protection Agency already has said it will take public comment to try to craft new rules.

“Having unelected bureaucrats regulating greenhouse gas at the direction of unelected judges is not the proper way to address this issue,” Mrs. Perino said. “If decisions of this magnitude with this large an impact on our economy are going to be made, they should be debated openly in a public arena with elected representatives of the people held accountable for the decisions.”

Opponents of the new plan, though, said embracing congressional action is a mistake, and comes just as Congress itself is shying away from mandatory controls in favor of having a political issue in the 2008 elections.

Christopher C. Horner, author of “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming,” said Mr. Bush’s announcement will actually embolden those in Congress who want to go beyond his recommendations.

“All this accomplished was to legitimize the agenda, wrench the political center of the issue far to the left, and leave some very good men and women out there hanging,” he said.

Mr. Horner said Mr. Bush should have acted in 2007, forcing Democrats to vote on the Kyoto agreement signed by President Clinton that would have tied the United States to European-style limits.

White House officials briefed some Republicans in Congress, and House Republicans are taking a wait-and-see approach.

“I think Republican members of the House of Representatives recognize that global climate change is a serious issue, and would support actions to address it, as long as those actions provide tangible environmental benefits to the American people and protect U.S. jobs,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio.

But senators pushing for stricter limits were excluded from the briefings, including Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, who is sponsoring one of the chief cap-and-trade proposals.

That bill was formerly known as the McCain-Lieberman bill, since Mr. McCain also was a sponsor. This year Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia has replaced the Arizona senator as the chief Republican sponsor.

• Jon Ward contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 News World Communications, Inc.  Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times.  This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization.  Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com.

Questions

1. How has President Bush changed his position on government policy addressing the perceived threat of global warming?

2. How will President Bush’s proposal differ from those of most Democrats and Republican Senator John McCain?

3. Why was a cap-and-trade program for electric utilities dropped from the Bush proposal yesterday? (Read about cap-and-trade programs below)

4. What was the Bush administration’s long-standing position in the global warming debate?

5. How does White House press secretary Dana Perino explain the administration’s change in position?

6. President Bush’s plan continues to reject a call for mandatory caps on the amount of greenhouse gases released by industry, although it did call for (then remove) a cap-and-trade program for electric utilities.
a) How do you think mandatory caps on industry like the electric company would affect you?
b) Do you believe that the government should regulate the amount of fossil fuels an industry uses? Explain your answer.
c) Do you believe that the government should regulate the amount of fossil fuels an individual uses? Explain your answer.


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Background

Cap and trade

  • Cap and trade (or emissions trading) is an approach used by governments to control greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels [oil and gas]) by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases (water vapor accounts for the largest amount of greenhouse gas). 
  • The purpose of cap and trade is to slow/end global warming by those who believe it is caused by man’s use of fossil fuels.
  • The government sets a limit, or cap, on the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted. (The U.S. program is currently voluntary.)
  • Companies are issued emission permits and are required to hold an equivalent number of allowances (or credits) which represent the right to emit a specific amount.
  • The total amount of allowances and credits cannot exceed the cap, limiting total emissions to that level.
  • Companies that need to increase their emissions must buy credits (trade) from those who emit less greenhouse gases.  
  • Read more about cap and trade here.

Resources

 The opposing viewpoints on global warming are: 

  • The earth’s climate is warming as a result of human actions; an extreme change in the earth’s climate is going to occur, caused by greenhouse gas emitted by the world’s use of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas).  This temperature change will result in catastrophic problems in the environment. Humans must drastically reduce the consumption of fossil fuels immediately.  To prevent this man-made climate change, countries need to restrict energy use (reduce use of gas and oil).
    Liberals generally hold this view.  Check out two liberal organizations which defend this viewpoint:
    Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace.
  • Human activity does not affect the earth’s temperature.  Burning fossil fuels (gas, coal and oil) does not cause climate change.  The earth’s climate changes naturally, but not so much that it will cause a change of catastrophic proportions.  An extreme change in the earth’s climate will not happen.  There are natural warming and cooling trends over time.  In the 1970’s a coming ice age was predicted, but now that scare has been replaced with the current global warming scare. 
    Conservatives generally hold this view.  Two conservative organizations which support this view are:
    IceCap.us and ScienceandPublicPolicy.org.