Bush's 'caution' on CO2 seen as 'foot-dragging' by critics
Supreme Court has ruled that EPA can regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from cars, but administration says deliberation needed.
With the U.S. Supreme Court peering over its shoulder and Congress turning up the political heat, the Bush administration is moving toward some sort of action on the climate-changing greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2).Skip to next paragraph
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But what administration officials see as responsible deliberation – seeking public comment later this spring before acting under the federal Clean Air Act – critics charge is foot-dragging. Rep. Ed Markey (D) of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, calls it "running out the clock" before the next president takes over in 10 months.
Not so, says Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson. Mr. Johnson's reason for going more slowly is that dealing with CO2 needs to be seen in a broader context: not just motor vehicles (which account for about 30 percent of the US total), but also such stationary sources as power plants, oil refineries, and cement and other manufacturers. In a letter to lawmakers quoted by the Associated Press he wrote:
"Rather than rushing to judgment on a single issue this approach allows us to examine all the potential effects of a decision with the benefit of the public's insight."
Johnson has supporters among industry groups and conservative analysts. The Edison Electric Institute, which represents big utilities, said it's glad the EPA realizes the broad potential of carbon regulation. Reuters reported:
" 'It's appropriate that the EPA fully understands the consequences of using the Clean Air Act tool to address greenhouse gases,' said John Kinsman, the group's senior director for the environment. US utilities generally favor a legislative fix to carbon dioxide emissions rather than a regulatory one, which could be challenged and delayed by lawsuits."
Heritage Foundation energy and environment policy analyst Ben Lieberman warns that any short-term effort to substantially curtail CO2 emissions "would have extremely costly and disruptive impacts on the economy and on living standards." He continues:
"The kind of industrial-strength EPA red tape that routinely imposes hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in compliance costs in a process that can drag on for a year or more could now be imposed for the first time on many commercial buildings, farms, and all but the smallest of businesses."