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[GreenYes] Global Warming
NEW YORK TIMES
March 14, 2000
Bush Reverses Vow to Curb Gas Tied to Global Warming
By DOUGLAS JEHL with ANDREW C. REVKIN
WASHINGTON, March 13 - Under strong pressure from conservative
Republicans and industry groups, President Bush reversed a campaign
pledge today and said his administration would not seek to regulate
power plants' emissions of carbon dioxide, a gas that many
scientists say is a key contributor to global warming.
The decision left environmental groups and some Congressional
Democrats angered at what they called a major betrayal. But the
White House said a cabinet-level review had concluded that Mr.
Bush's original promise had been a mistake inconsistent with the
broader goal of increasing domestic energy production.
The president outlined his new view in a letter to four Republican
senators, whose criticisms of Mr. Bush's initial plan had been
among a torrent of protests by conservatives and industry leaders
who warned that any effort to regulate carbon dioxide emissions
could deal a severe blow to the energy industry and to the American
As recently as 10 days ago, Christie Whitman, the new
administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, had described
Mr. Bush's campaign promise as if it were already policy.
Administration officials would not say directly today whether Ms.
Whitman had supported the change in position but suggested that she
had not. They said the views of Vice President Dick Cheney and
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham had been most instrumental in the
A spokeswoman for Ms. Whitman, Tina Kreisher, said the E.P.A. chief
would "follow the president's lead."
The burden of any plan to regulate carbon dioxide emissions would
have fallen most heavily on coal-burning power plants, which still
account for more than 50 percent of the electricity generated in
the United States. Mr. Bush said today that a recent Energy
Department study had concluded that regulating carbon dioxide
emissions would have led to "significantly higher electricity
"This is important new information that warrants a re-evaluation,
especially at a time of rising energy prices and a serious energy
shortage," Mr. Bush said.
"At a time when California has already experienced energy
shortages, and other Western states are worried about price and
availability of energy this summer, we must be very careful not to
take actions that could harm consumers," Mr. Bush said in the
letter. "This is especially true given the incomplete state of
scientific knowledge of the causes of, and solutions to, global
climate change and the lack of commercially available technologies
for removing and storing carbon dioxide."
Mr. Bush said he remained committed to an energy policy that would
seek to improve air quality by reducing emissions of nitrogen
oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury, which are already regulated as
pollutants. But he said he no longer supported the position
outlined in a campaign statement of Sept. 29, which had also
promised to set "mandatory reduction targets" for carbon dioxide.
Some moderate Republicans who had been preparing to introduce
legislation later this week supporting a power plant cleanup
including carbon dioxide also expressed frustration with the sudden
shift. They and some owners of coal-fired plants had supported the
idea of regulating all four emissions from power plants at once, to
avoid uncertainty and confusion in years to come.
The pressure to make the decision came in part from lobbyists for
coal companies and utilities dependent on coal and from the
conservative wing of the Republican Party, which saw any move to
regulate carbon dioxide as an implicit endorsement of the goals of
the Kyoto Protocol.
This treaty, negotiated and signed by the Clinton administration
but as yet unratified, would commit 38 industrialized countries to
sharp ongoing cuts in carbon dioxide emissions.
Many senators, particularly Jesse Helms, Republican of North
Carolina, and Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, oppose it as a a
potential harm to the economy and because it would allow American
energy policy, in essence, to be governed by an international
treaty. The letter was sent to Mr. Helms, Mr. Hagel, Senator Pat
Roberts of Kansas and Senator Larry E. Craig of Idaho.
Mr. Bush's earlier embrace of the plan had won him praise from
environmental leaders, who described the approach as an indication
that the administration might be more sympathetic than they had
The representatives of environmental organizations denounced Mr.
"Bush is turning his back not only on his campaign pledge, but on
his administrator of the E.P.A. and the world's scientists, who
warn this problem is more serious than we previously thought," said
Daniel A. Lashof, a senior scientist for the Natural Resources
In the offices of industry lobbyists and conservative Republican
congressmen, on the other hand, there was a strong sense of
Glenn Kelly, the executive director of the Global Climate
Coalition, which represents industry groups, said the White House
had received "a lot of communications" from those critical of any
attempt to regulate emissions that are viewed as contributing to
global warming. "Fortunately, the president responded quickly," Mr.
Mr. Bush's earlier position had been more far-reaching even than
that of his campaign opponent, former Vice President Al Gore, who
had called for strong incentives to encourage voluntary moves by
industry to reduce emissions.
The letter from Mr. Bush came in response to a letter sent last
week by Senator Hagel, requesting that Mr. Bush clarify his stance.
Mr. Hagel has repeatedly said in recent months that he believes
global warming is at least partly caused by emissions of gases from
human activities, but he has opposed both the Kyoto Protocol and
legislative moves to limit carbon dioxide emissions. Tonight, Mr.
Hagel said he welcomed Mr. Bush's response.
A number of members of Congress, including Senators James M.
Jeffords, Republican of Vermont, and Joseph I. Lieberman, a
Connecticut Democrat, are preparing various power plant bills that
would have included carbon dioxide among regulated emissions.
Tonight staff for the bill sponsors said identical bills would
still be introduced in the Senate and House on Thursday, but they
conceded that there was little hope, at least for now, that such
measures could succeed.
Many people involved on both sides of the fight said the decision
by Mr. Bush represented a sharp rebuke of Ms. Whitman, the former
New Jersey governor.
Among others in the administration who had been seen as supporting
restrictions on carbon dioxide was the Treasury secretary, Paul H.
O'Neill, who in his previous post as chairman of Alcoa had said in
a 1998 speech that the problem of global warming was on par with a
potential nuclear holocaust in terms of demanding government
Ms. Kreisher, Ms. Whitman's spokeswoman, said: "The administrator
has said in the past that President Bush regards climate change
very seriously and supports a comprehensive, balanced energy policy
that is intended to improve air quality, and the administrator is
gratified that he supports that."
A senior E.P.A. official who spoke on condition of anonymity,
however, left little doubt that the turnabout had left Ms. Whitman
exposed. "If you look at her past statements, she said she was
supporting what was in the president's campaign plan," the official
said. "It's his prerogative to decide if he wants to change that,
and she will follow his lead."
A White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said Mr. Bush had made
his decision in consultation with his cabinet.
"The president is following through on his commitment to a
multipollutant strategy that will significantly reduce pollutants,"
Mr. McClellan said. "CO2 should not have been included as a
pollutant during the campaign. It was a mistake."
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