NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Why is The Bush Administration About to Endorse Greenhouse Emissions Controls?

February 14, 2002

There is still no conclusive evidence that human activity is causing global temperatures to rise. Yet President Bush is expected to announce today his backing of a cap-and-trade scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It would involve the purchase and sale of emissions rights on an open market.

It is still unclear whether the system would be voluntary or mandatory -- but few expect that it would stay voluntary for long.

Skeptics are suspicious that Bush's move is political -- a chance for him to throw something to the environmentalists -- rather than a bow to scientific realities.

  • Bush last year withdrew U.S. support for the global warming Kyoto Protocol, calling the treaty "fatally flawed."
  • Even former president Clinton's Energy Department said it would reduce U.S. output by 4 percent, or $400 billion annually.
  • The Bush administration is still studying any link between carbon dioxide emissions and global temperature fluctuations -- with $4.5 billion in its 2003 budget earmarked for climate-related programs, an increase of $700 million and a total greater than any other nation's.
  • Satellite observations over the past quarter century show no increase in heating just above the earth's surface -- and observations going back thousands of years show natural cycles of warming and cooling long before the invention of SUVs and air conditioning.

Economists see permit trading as a far preferable approach to command-and-control regulations. But they warn that it still represents a huge gamble with the U.S. economy -- as well as a threat to developing nations that are dependent on U.S. growth.

Source: James K. Glassman (American Enterprise Institute), "Turning Green," Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2002.


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