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United States Will Not Regulate Carbon Dioxide

Environmentalists in the United States are angry at President George Bush’s statement to Congress that he will not regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

WASHINGTON, DC, US, 2001-03-15 <SolarAccess.com> The decision was contained in letter sent Tuesday to a Republican senator, and is viewed by conservationists as an end to curbing emissions of greenhouse gases due to global warming. The letter cites rising energy costs in the western regions of the country as the main reason for Bush’s decision to reverse his recent campaign promise. During the election, Bush had promised to treat emissions of carbon dioxide as pollutants, and pledged to require electric utilities to “reduce emissions and significantly improve air quality.” He had proposed legislation to establish “mandatory reduction targets” for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and carbon dioxide. In his letter, Bush says he is committed to a balanced energy policy that improves air quality by curbing the other emissions, but that the government should not impose mandatory emissions caps on carbon dioxide. He explains that the U.S. Clean Air Act does not include carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and his aides say they did not realize there was a contradiction when Bush released his energy policy during the campaign. “I oppose the Kyoto Protocol because it exempts 80 percent of the world, including major population centers such as China and India, from compliance, and would cause serious harm to the U.S. economy,” says the letter. “The Senate’s vote, 95-0, shows that there is a clear consensus that the Kyoto Protocol is an unfair and ineffective means of addressing global climate change concerns.” The letter that was sent to Senators Hagel, Helms, Craig and Roberts cites a December study by the Department of Energy that predicted higher electricity prices if carbon dioxide were regulated. The ‘Analysis of Strategies for Reducing Multiple Emissions from Power Plants’ says caps on carbon dioxide emissions would produce a dramatic shift from coal to natural gas for generation of electricity. “This is important new information that warrants a reevaluation, especially at a time of rising energy prices and a serious energy shortage,” says Bush. “Coal generates more than half of America’s electricity supply.” The policy has received swift condemnation from environmental groups. The chances of finalizing a global agreement on global warming “took a step backwards today” and “is yet another signal that he has declared war on our nation’s environment,” says Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth. Switching from coal to gas “should be used alongside developing renewable energy sources.” “It only took President Bush 60 days to walk away from his most explicit environmental campaign promise,” says Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust. “Stunningly short-sighted,” was the response from Nancy Kete of the World Resources Institute. “There is no credible climate protection policy that does not include a strong signal to investors and operators of power plants that CO2 emissions must be reduced. And with the stroke of the pen, the President just sent precisely the opposite signal.” Electric utilities emit one third of the total carbon dioxide in the United States, and 8 percent of global carbon emissions. Emissions from U.S. power plants exceed the combined emissions from 146 countries. “President Bush’s total about-face on his campaign pledge to establish mandatory reduction targets for carbon dioxide puts the short-term interests of coal and oil industry polluters above the health and well-being of Americans and the global environment,” says Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “If the president is truly interested in diversifying our energy supplies to shield consumers from the price volatility currently plaguing energy markets, he should have seized this historic opportunity to reduce our over-reliance on polluting fossil fuels like coal. He should have committed to promoting much more aggressive use of America’s substantial, clean renewable energy and energy efficiency resources.”