Friday, January 20, 2006

A climate-change chorus, and one deaf ear

A climate-change chorus, and one deaf ear.
Six former EPA administrators urge action on global warming, but the Bush administration still isn't listening
Friday, January 20, 2006 The Oregonian

Six former administrators of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, including five Republicans, are urging the White House to impose mandatory greenhouse gas controls. They are surely right, but the Bush administration remains deaf and dumb on climate change.

Twenty-nine leading U.S. economists, including three Nobel laureates, have proposed a market-based cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases. Scientists, senators, governors, mayors, industry leaders and many others around the world all are pushing serious steps to slow climate change.

But not the White House. It still acts as though climate change is some distant, theoretical problem, one it can brush off with a token, voluntary program to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. That's not enough, and every living person who has served as EPA administrator, except two who still work for this president, knows it.

At an event Wednesday to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the EPA, the former administrators ripped the White House for its failure to address to climate change. "This is a major disaster for the world," said Russell Train, who directed the agency under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford from 1973 to 1977. "We need leadership, and I don't think we're getting it. To sit back and just push it away and say we'll deal with it sometime down the road is dishonest . . . and self-destructive."

Yet that is the policy of this administration. The White House clings to the idea of a voluntary plan to cut emissions "intensity," a measure of total emissions as a fraction of economic output. But even if the president's wishful thinking about voluntary compliance comes true, it would barely change emissions in the United States, which is responsible for nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

At the EPA event Wednesday, current Administrator Stephen Johnson insisted again that the voluntary program and technological innovation are the best ways to address climate change. Johnson propped up and knocked down a straw man, asking, "Are we going to tell people to stop driving their cars, or do we start investing in technology? That's the answer, investing in those technologies."

No serious leaders are telling people to stop driving. But California, Oregon and other states are demanding that automakers use proven technology to reduce auto emissions in the new cars they sell. Meanwhile, Johnson and the EPA are sitting on the federal waivers the states need to move forward with their new emission controls.

The longer the EPA stalls, the more it looks as though the White House doesn't believe its own rhetoric about the power of new technology to reduce emissions and slow the rate of climate change. Like the polar ice caps, the administration's vague promises to address global warming just keep melting away.


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