April 15, 2008

Bush Finally Takes Action on Global Warming

The Bush administration, in a surprising change of course, is set to ask Congress to pass a bill to combat global warming, and will lay out principles of what that will entail.

They have yet to announce specifics of the policy as they are still being debated, but Bush administration officials have told Republicans in Congress that they feel pressure to act now for fear of a coming regulatory nightmare. This would be the first time President Bush has called for statutory authority on the subject.

An administration source close to the White House said this is an attempt to move the administration and the party closer to the center on global warming. "With these steps, it is hoped that the debate over this is over, and it is time to do something," the source said.

The anonymous source said given the arguments at the White House over the extent of the action to take, it is not clear exactly what the President will propose.

Still, congressional sources say Republican members of Congress who were briefed last week let top administration officials know that they think the White House is making a mistake. Opponents said Mr. Bush could be setting off runaway legislation, particularly with Democrats in control of Congress.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said discussion has continued on how to follow up on Mr. Bush's call at the Group of Eight summit last year for the U.S. to lead on a post-Kyoto Protocol worldwide framework. She would not say whether an announcement is imminent.

The Bush Administration is trying to avoid what it sees as a regulatory disaster.

Environmentalists say greenhouse gases can be regulated under existing rules under the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act or the National Environmental Policy Act, and have filed lawsuits to try to force action. The administration would like to avoid a web of rules and regulations for businesses.

Perino called the embedded regulatory trajectory they're on a "train wreck". "For those who want reasonable and responsible action, it is worthwhile to have a constructive conversation as we work to keep the developing nations in this process in a way that will work to solve the problem without harming the economy," she added.

She said the administration's discussions, in and out of Congress, are building toward an expected debate on climate change in the Senate in June and toward the next G-8 meeting in July, when the U.S. would like to have a more specific conversation about goals for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions.

U.S. officials will meet in Paris at the end of the week where they will discuss climate change with other major economic powers. Sources within the administration and congress say the White House will explain their push then.

According to Perino, the White House does not expect countries to come to the meeting with specific proposals.

Some scientists believe humans are effecting climate change through increased carbon dioxide emissions from industry, power generation, automobiles and other sources. European nations and other governments have set specific rules for limiting emissions, despite opponents who say those rules end up hurting their economies without much environmental benefit to show for it.

With all of the remaining major U.S. presidential candidates favoring new controls on greenhouse-gas emissions, Mr. Bush could be trying to lay the groundwork for the next president.

Sens. John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton are in favor of a cap-and-trade system much like Europe's"”setting an overall limit on carbon emissions and allowing polluters to buy credits from companies that stay below their carbon targets.

Sources say it is uncertain whether the President will go that far this week.

"Mr. Bush should realize that the U.S. is already ahead of the Europeans," said Brian Kennedy, spokesman for the Institute for Energy Research.

Kennedy noted that U.S. taxpayers are already spending more than $40 billion a year to address climate change, and to date "we're achieving better results than the Europeans are under a bureaucratic regulatory framework."

"That should be kept in mind before any rash or political decisions are made inside the White House. Excessive regulations would come with significant economic consequences and additional costs for consumers," he said.

Christopher C. Horner, author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming," said the Bush administration should have seen the regulatory problems long ago and that the president is trying to solve them the wrong way.

"There's a way to responsibly do this, but calling for a bill isn't it. Democrats"”and all presidential candidates"”desperately want Bush to take ownership of the issue before he goes, leaving them free of the burdens of responsibility for their rhetoric," Horner said.

He added: "Mr. Bush should have been spending the past two years pointing out that even as the U.S. reduces the rate of growth of carbon emissions, it is taking manufacturing jobs from Europe. Nations that adopted strict carbon emissions are facing economic consequences while finding the goals impossible to meet."

"The U.S. is the world leader in reducing the rate of growth of CO2 emissions while also growing its economy"”faster on both counts, as with population as well, than its principal antagonist, Europe, which is suffering for reasons of political 'face' under a failed scheme that the Democrats and McCain amazingly want to burden us with," he said.

Still, many are skeptical over the options the White House is considering.

One source said several House members, including Republican Reps. John Shimkus of Illinois and F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin, told the White House it was making a mistake if it called for congressional action.

Spokesmen for both congressmen declined to comment on the private meeting. Steve Tomaszewski, a spokesman for Mr. Shimkus, said the congressman's exchange with administration officials was intended to let them know the prospects under a Democrat-controlled House.

Tomaszewski said Shimkus was emphasizing that whatever proposal the administration might be discussing would not be received favorably by the majority in Congress. "The speaker is pretty much focused on a cap-and-trade, and anything less that you might propose would likely not be received favorably. Small steps aren't what they're looking at right now."