States take clean-air measures into their own hands
Although the Bush administration has backed off carbon dioxide regulations, others are pushing the issue.
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Meanwhile, nine Eastern states (the six New England states plus Delaware, New Jersey, and New York) have formed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative requiring large power plants to reduce carbon emissions through a cap-and-trade system. Officials in Maine, for example, worry that unchecked climate change could raise sea levels there 16 inches by the end of the century.Skip to next paragraph
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California is battling the auto industry in its effort to limit emissions from cars and trucks. Washington State is considering similar legislation. Oregon and the other two West Coast states have joined together to measure and report GHG emissions, reduce the use of diesel generators on ships in port, and combine purchasing power to buy fuel-efficient vehicles for official use.
Around the country, cities and towns are taking steps to reduce global warming as well. Worcester, Mass., for example, has committed to getting 20 percent of its energy from nonpolluting sources by the end of the decade.
Under pressure from investor groups, automakers, oil and gas companies, and electric utilities have begun to consider the financial risks of global warming. Faced with a shareholder resolution, Ford last week agreed to do so. Industry trade journals report that General Motors, ExxonMobil, and other major energy-related companies are likely to do this as well.
Some automakers are taking actual steps to reduce such emissions. For one, Detroit firms doing business in Canada may find their future north of the US border. Canadian automakers - including Ford - last week signed an agreement with Ottawa to develop and market vehicles with fuel-saving technology.
Among those congressional leaders publicly advocating more government action to reduce the threat of global warming are several prominent Republicans.
Thursday, the Senate Energy Committee considers climate-change legislation by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) of Nebraska, which would provide loans and other incentives for businesses investing in advanced technology that reduces GHGs.
Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona is cosponsor (with Joseph Lieberman (D) of Connecticut) of the Climate Stewardship Act of 2005, which would require reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions through a market-based cap-and-trade approach.
"For argument's sake, let's say ... that the science that we are relying on is wrong - yet we enact legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," says Senator McCain. "What harm will that action cause? Clean air and a more competitive industrial base."
This "precautionary principle" is essentially the same thing that Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) noted in introducing his state's "Climate Protection Plan," which includes reducing GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2010.
"If climate change is happening, the actions we take will help," Governor Romney said. "If climate change is largely caused by human actions, this will really help. If we learn decades from now that climate change isn't happening, these actions will still help our economy, our quality of life, and the quality of our environment."