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Kyoto twin moving through Congress

By Cheryl K. Chumley
web posted July 12, 2004

Who needs the Kyoto Protocol when there's Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)?

That was the question at hand last week as S. 139, the Climate Stewardship Act, and its House companion, H.R. 4067, built momentum, threatening the long-term ability of this nation to grow economically in the process.

Both measures promise to "provide for a program of scientific research on abrupt climate change" and to "accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States." Both measures also, interestingly enough, take this nation once step closer toward realizing the goals of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, an international environmental measure the United States signed Nov. 12, 1998, but never ratified.

Had we ratified, the United States would have committed itself to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane, by seven percent below 1990 levels, between 2008 and 2012. This legally binding agreement would have placed strict production guidelines on our energy, industrial and agricultural sectors, resulting in higher prices to consumers and in job losses, as compliance costs forced companies to abandon business or relocate overseas.

Wisely -- perhaps realizing the economic downfall this country would suffer should such an albatross be hung about the necks of our nation's major producers, perhaps fearing the public outcry generated at the time might have translated into revenge at the polls – the Senate refrained from entering this treaty, contenting itself instead to abide only the provisions set forth in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, ratified in the United States Oct. 15, 1992.

The main difference between these U.N. documents, as summarized by Competitive Enterprise Institute environmental expert Myron Ebell, is that the Framework Convention commits the United States to "reducing greenhouse gas emissions that would prevent dangerous interference to the environment," while Kyoto spells out what those reductions entail.

In other words, the treaty the United States actually ratified is tamer in its implementation because it leaves open the door to interpreting what constitutes environmental danger and deciding the action to allay this danger. Kyoto, on the other hand, regulates and dictates specific production levels -- all while violating our sovereign right to conduct business and grow our economy in the spirit of free market, constitutionally-guaranteed principle.

Certain senators are obviously unhappy with the United States maintaining any semblance of control over its energy sectors at all, however, because S. 139, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), is a Kyoto twin, albeit it comes "at a slower rate," Ebell said. Broken into two phases, this bill commits the "electricity, transportation, industry and commercial sectors" to lowering greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2010 and to 1990 levels by 2016.

The bone thrown to business, skewed as it seems, is that these reductions can be achieved in line with "market-driven" principles, allowing businesses to trade and barter certain emission credits, "tradeable allowances," as if such were real and physical commodities. The truth, of course, is that market-driven principle relies less on government intervention and more on consumer demand and consumption – something this bill unabashedly fails to recognize or uphold.

What it does uphold, however, is U.N. agenda, and the fact that McCain is reportedly campaigning heavily to bring this version of international encroachment to the Senate for a vote – "He said he was going to attach it to a liability bill as an amendment," for consideration this week, Ebell found – does not bode well for those who favor the ideals of freedom and free trade upon which this country was founded.

The fact that S. 139's sister, H.R. 4067, has seen 10 additional cosponsors in June alone bodes poorly, too, for any optimists who assume simply halting the McCain/Lieberman bill, which the American Council for Capital Formation estimates will cost $600 to $1,300 per household starting in 2010, will result in a disappearance of the issue.

Rather, this agenda seeps through both sides of Congress and deep into the White House, most notably to the 2000 presidential campaign when confusion abounded as to which side of the Kyoto debate Bush actually supported. Recall Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey governor and Bush-appointed Environmental Protection Agency administrator, who at the state level implemented a voluntary carbon dioxide emission reduction program and then, in her federal role, pushed hard for Kyoto ratification and creation of regulations akin to S. 139.

Whitman's gone, but in her place is Mike Leavitt, former Utah governor and co-author of the "balanced environmental philosophy," Enlibra. Latin for "moving toward balance," Enlibra "emphasizes collaboration over confrontation."

Let's hope collaboration, in the immediate, does not lead to either outright submission or backdoor capitulation to U.N. environmental policy.

Cheryl K. Chumley is a regular contributing columnist to several Internet news sites, including www.pipelinenews.org, www.newswithviews.com and www.thedailycannon.com. She may be reached at ckchumley@aol.com.

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