President Bush today plans to announce long-term and “realistic” intermediate goals for greenhouse gas emission reductions and call for a new regulatory approach replacing what White House aides say is a “train wreck” of laws intended to address other issues.
Bush will speak in the Rose Garden in advance of a meeting in Paris on Thursday and Friday of representatives of major economic powers who are seeking to identify country-by-country goals for slashing carbon emissions.
Bush will at least offer a tip of the hat to the effort to establish mandatory overall target for greenhouse gas emissions, pointing to mandatory programs begun since 2001 in eight significant sectors involving greenhouse gas emissions.
According to an internal White House briefing document, these include renewable fuels; vehicle fuel economy; lighting efficiency; appliance efficiency; increased fuel efficiency and renewable fuel use by federal government operations; an accelerated phase out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons; and federal government promotion of new building codes and of state efforts to increase renewable power.
“Preliminary estimates show that combined, these mandates will prevent 6-10 billion metric tons of GHG emissions through 2030,” the document states.
But while White House aides emphasize Bush is not opposed to the principle of “cap and trade” programs, he will not offer a specific plan today. Bush opposes Democratic cap and trade proposals circulating on Capitol Hill, including the economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions cap and trade bill the Senate plans to take up June 2.
In his speech, Bush will focus on providing businesses incentives to develop technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“He will emphasize the importance of incentivizing technology as an effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and will talk about his concerns with approaches likely to be considered during the Senate floor debate scheduled for the first week of June — approaches that are unrealistic and would have a dramatically negative impact on our economy,” White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said.
According to one lobbyist, Bush will insist that new global warming legislation must include a “safety valve” that limits the costs to businesses. He will also call for more nuclear energy.
White House aides last week floated the idea to House Republicans of doing a cap-and-trade proposal that only affects power plants, but it was not well received. Some lawmakers, including Global Warming ranking member James Sensenbrenner, arguing that Bush should not propose legislation given the long odds Democrats face in getting global warming legislation into law this year.
Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer said Bush’s addressing of global warming is “great news,” adding that it provides “wind at my back” for getting a bill done this year.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who is sponsoring a greenhouse gas emissions cap and trade bill for power plants, said he prefers a “step-by-step, serious approach” to global warming and compared the pending economy-wide Senate bill to failed comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
“It sounds good in the beginning, but we don’t do comprehensive very well,” he said.
He said parts of the Senate bill — sponsored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and John Warner, R-Va., and approved by the Environment and Public Works Committee in December — could pass this year, but the bill would not be approved in its entirety.
In seeking a more streamlined regulatory approach to greenhouse gas emissions, Bush will note that the issue is governed by a jumble of laws — including the Clean Air Act and Endangered Species Act — that were never intended to regulate greenhouse gases, Perino said. He will assert that recent court decisions hold “the very real prospect” that the federal government will regulate greenhouse gas emissions with or without a new law being passed.
“Having unelected bureaucrats regulating greenhouse gases at the direction of unelected judges is not the proper way to address this issue,” 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.”
This article appears in the April 19, 2008, edition of NJ Daily.