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February 18, 2002
Volume 80, Number 7
CENEAR 80 7 p. 10
ISSN 0009-2347
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Proposal seeks voluntary emissions cuts, critics doubtful that will work


President George W. Bush spelled out his new climate-change policy in a speech on Feb. 14.

Under the Bush plan, power plants could emit more pollutants than allowed under the current Clean Air Act, which caps emissions of NOx at 1.25 million tons, SO2 at 2 million tons, and mercury at 7.5 tons by 2012. Under the Bush plan, the caps are, respectively, 1.7 million tons, 3 million tons, and 15 tons by 2018.
Bush said his policy will slow the rate of growth in greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. and provide $4.6 billion in tax credits over five years for renewable energy sources, such as wind power. By reducing "greenhouse gas intensity"--the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of economic output--the policy is expected to slow, but not halt, the rise in CO2 emissions.

Ever since Bush repudiated the Kyoto protocol last March, he has been under enormous pressure to propose an alternative. This plan, which he termed "an aggressive new strategy," is aimed at reducing greenhouse gases 4.5% over expected emissions by 2012, in contrast to the protocol, which required a reduction of 22 to 25%.

Bush said the approach is based on "the commonsense idea that sustainable economic growth is the key to environmental progress because it is growth that provides the resources for investment in clean technologies."

Bush's climate-change policy is entirely voluntary, encouraging companies to report emissions and any reductions activities and promising credit for these reductions if a mandatory approach is eventually put into place.

Critics rushed to denounce the new policy. Environmental Defense describes it as "nothing more than a continuation of the failed policy of the last 10 years."

Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, says the plan does not go nearly far enough. During each of the past two decades, greenhouse gas intensity fell by about 18%, she says. The White House fact sheet says Bush's plan would reduce the intensity 18% over the next 10 years, merely perpetuating the existing trend, Claussen says.

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