- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 1, 2001

On the heels of the coldest November-December in more than 100 years, the Bush administration directed Clinton-Gore administration holdover appointees to brief Cabinet-level officials on one of Al Gore's pet projects, something he actually had a hand in inventing the theory of catastrophic global warming. Now those efforts are bearing poisoned fruit.

News of these briefings came as a shock to conservatives versed in the hype. Though Mr. Gore was vulnerable on this, candidate Bush had essentially demurred, muttering contradictory nothings about the theory's legitimacy. This appeared to simply manifest standard Republican trepidation over challenging Democrats on "the environment," so susceptible to demagoguery.

During the third and final debate, however, until Jim Lehrer cut him off Mr. Bush actually confronted a disturbing bit of recent news to the energy-control left, the self-styled "environmentalists." That is, the father of the carbon dioxide-based theory of global warming, James Hansen, had recently backed-off his hypothesis and told his followers to search for another culprit for the long-awaited, yet never-materialized, warming. Nice catch, Governor. We were hopeful.

Then came "the speech." Rumors the day before Mr. Bush's eagerly anticipated budget address to Congress and the American people, a State of the Union substitute for all first-termers, caused the market-oriented right to boil over with betrayal. Word was the president would, if only in passing, advocate "multi-pollutant" legislation capping and regulating, among several pollutants, carbon dioxide (CO2), the basic element in the planetary food chain.

The idea of regulating CO2 had surfaced, slightly, late in the campaign, in the form of one line deep in Mr. Bush's draft energy strategy. For whatever reason few thought that this proposal, so radical that Mr. Gore had his EPA abandon it, could be more than a typo or rhetorical sop to enviros.

The idea was not "serious" because CO2 is an odorless, colorless, nontoxic natural gas. It does also happen to be the bogeyman of the left, however, given that man joins the Earth in generating CO2 (2 percent of the total), by burning fossil fuels. But no one has ever alleged it as harmful in any concentration, other than under the theory of catastrophic global warming. This theory is what the controversial "Kyoto Protocol" addresses, requiring dramatic reductions among select nations of this intentional product of energy consumption (burning fuel means oxidizing carbon; the more efficiently you use fuel, the more of its carbon content you oxidize, or turn into CO2).

If true, this plan was heresy. Market advocates and other conservatives hit the phones, fax and e-mail by the scores, ultimately to be informed the language would be stricken, though the agenda remained set. This is wrong. If seniors shouldn't have to choose between medicine and food in allocating limited resources, why force the dilemma of "heating or eating"? The only way to reduce man-made carbon dioxide is to reduce energy consumption, only feasible through rationing or taxing energy out of its current usage levels. That's what Kyoto means, with the United States committed to reducing particular, mostly nontoxic energy emissions to 20 percent below today's level. This makes California's current lifestyle of scarcity look like an energy binge.

George Bush repeatedly said that Kyoto is the wrong way to go. But, by capping and regulating CO2, however, he accepts the proposition that CO2 is harmful. Since CO2 is only alleged to be a threat under the theory of catastrophic global warming, he accepts Kyoto's science. By Seeking to cap and regulate CO2, he also adopts its process. So, exactly what about Kyoto doesn't he like?

Interested observers presumed Mr. Bush viewed Kyoto as a nonstarter because it excludes most of the world, leaving the United States as one of only several countries required to cap and regulate CO2 (i.e., ship future energy use offshore). But his domestic "multi-pollutant" strategy, addressing what is still merely a theory, excludes all of the rest of the world. This apparently makes sense to someone.

The apologist's logic for the Bush CO2 cap, that this is limited to electric utilities (as part of a deal with enviro groups, to get utilities out of some unrelated burden sprung on them by the departing Clinton EPA) of course is facile. When, pray tell, is the last time the enviros got their foot in the door and weren't sleeping on the couch within a week? Further, there is no distinguishing characteristic of anthropogenic carbon emissions. If a smokestack molecule is harmful, an exhaled molecule is harmful, too. What is the logic behind stopping at any particular emission source?

The alternative apology, that we'll just call CO2 an "emission" is too cute to dignify, though sadly it may convince a few. ("Sir, ours is no pyramid scheme, but a trapezoid!") No, the only idea that can carry the day is that carbon dioxide, taken in by all plants and exhaled by all animals, is harmful.

To accept CO2 as harmful is to accept that man is "killing the planet" with his marginal contribution to Earth's handiwork of CO2 emissions, such contribution which happens to derive from that factor responsible for prosperity and required to sustain modern society abundant energy use. This is no small proposition. There is no way to reasonably say, "Sure we're killing the planet, but your remedy (e.g., Kyoto) is just not the right one." Radical lifestyle change is the only solution.

And that is precisely what the left calls for. If you accept the theory of catastrophic global warming, you accept the dogma that Kyoto is just "one thirtieth of what we need!" Yet Republicans now advocate a long overdue national energy policy. Suppressing the intentional product of energy use cuts this off at the knees.

Tainted by extremism, Mr. Gore was realistic about the difficulties he would encounter regulating CO2 as a "pollutant." Yet, Mr. Gore may be winning in his defeat, his opponent having initiated Mr. Gore's "wrenching transformation" his aides sought to hush. Stay tuned.

Christopher C. Horner is counsel to the Cooler Heads Coalition.

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