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Washington Watch

The Ice Caps Melt While Emissions Policies Remain Frozen:

Major International and Domestic Initiatives Aren’t Moving Until Bush Leaves Office in 2009

There’s an old saying: lead, follow, or get out of the way. When it comes to emissions policy, the Bush administration has chosen to do a bit of all three: leading the public to believe they’re actually doing something, following the wishes of the oil and automotive industries, and getting out of the way of major polluters.

Repeated use of these tactics has revealed a policy pattern. Back in June, the leaders of the G8 nations met in Germany to discuss several important global issues. German Chancellor Andrea Merkel announced prior to the meeting that the centerpiece of the 2007 summit would be global climate change.

Bush sought to torpedo this initiative first by preemptively announcing his own voluntary carbon reduction plan a week before the G8 meeting. At the meeting, Bush was able to leverage his influence to make sure the final G8 resolution lacked teeth. The result? The G8 leaders agreed to ''seriously consider'' cutting carbon emissions by 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. They also agreed to have a post-Kyoto climate change agreement set up by 2009. Thus, the US doesn’t actually have to cut any emissions before 2009 at the earliest (click here to read the June 18th KA article on this topic).

This pattern applies to domestic policy as well. Better World Club has long been reporting on California’s fight against the EPA to enact its own Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. After much back-and-forth, the EPA was finally forced by the Supreme Court to consider California’s request.

Since then, Bush-appointed EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson has appeared before congressional committees on several occasions. Congress has repeatedly asked Johnson when the EPA would be done considering California’s request, and Johnson has repeatedly stated that the EPA needs more time.

The most recent excuse given was the need to review 60,000 public comments filed by the June 15 deadline. Of course, according to EPA staffers, 53,000 of the responses were identical comments supporting California - the result of a mass mailing campaign.

In testimony before California Sen. Barbara Boxer's Environment & Public Works Committee, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson used the majority of his testimony to explain that his agency “is working to develop a proposed rule for the federal regulation of emissions of greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles” – one he expects to unveil at the end of 2008.

The end of 2008? Are you seeing the pattern here?

“EPA appears to be telegraphing that it will deny California's request on the basis that it is developing national standards,” said Frank O'Donnell, executive director of Clean Air Watch. “A shameless political move.”

Gosh, who knows? Perhaps the watered-down national emissions standards will be voluntary for the automakers, just like Bush’s global carbon reducing initiative. Voluntary or not, it appears that no progress is going to be made before 2009.