- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2006

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday met to discuss banding together to curb global warming, bypassing the rest of the United States in what would be a trans-Atlantic market for rights to produce greenhouse gases.

The proposal builds on a global-warming program announced by the California governor a year ago. Like the earlier plan, it raises legal questions such as whether the state has authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases not regulated by the federal government, or to enter into a global-warming treaty not ratified by the Senate, critics say.

The move by two allies of President Bush appears designed to pressure Republicans in the administration and Congress who are doing nothing to curb global warming despite growing public concern about the increased intensity of hurricanes and other phenomena that have been traced to rising surface temperatures on Earth.

Many scientists link greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide emitted from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, to global warming, although there is some disagreement on the topic.

Yesterday’s event in Los Angeles, with the two heads of government surrounded by John Browne, chairman of BP, and other corporate executives, appeared designed to help Mr. Schwarzenegger in a state where nearly 80 percent of voters rank global warming as a threat that affects their lives.

“We’ve got to tackle this problem now,” said Terry Tamminen, special assistant to Mr. Schwarzenegger, noting that California’s high-mountain snowpack has been melting and its beaches eroding from fiercer storms.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has called on California to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2010. Mr. Blair has called on Britain to reduce carbon emissions to 60 percent of its 1990 levels by 2050.

“You have to admit it’s pretty cool,” Mr. Tamminen said of yesterday’s summit, calling the Blair-Schwarzenegger meeting “history in the making.”

California is the 12th-largest producer of greenhouse gases worldwide primarily because of the carbon dioxide that is a byproduct of driving automobiles and fueling power plants. The U.S. is the world’s largest producer for the same reasons.

Myron Ebell, global warming specialist at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, called the joint plan “a lot of hot air” and “blatantly unconstitutional.” The U.S. Constitution says states cannot enter into agreements with foreign countries without Congress’ consent, he said.

“Apparently Governor Schwarzenegger thinks that California has become a sovereign nation,” he said. “King Arnold, perhaps?”

Rather than reduce emissions in any significant way, Mr. Ebell said, “This deal is political symbolism designed to pressure the Congress and the president into putting the U.S. onto the latest fashionable California energy diet. The result would be to turn the U.S. into an economic basket case, which is exactly what it’s doing in California.”

California already has moved ahead of the federal government by mandating emissions cuts at power plants and ratcheting up fuel-efficiency standards for cars, among other steps. Detroit’s automakers have challenged the state’s stricter mileage requirements in court, however.

While targeted industries are questioning whether states have authority to regulate global warming, several states have countersued, trying to force the federal government to regulate in a suit pending before the Supreme Court.

The Bush administration, in publishing higher mileage standards for sport utility vehicles earlier this year, says it has no authority to regulate greenhouse gases and included a provision aimed at pre-empting regulation by California and other states.

The joint plan with Britain would enable California to join a global system of emissions trading envisioned in the Kyoto global warming treaty rejected by Mr. Bush and the Republican-led Congress. Under the system, countries are assigned caps on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse emissions. If they are over their caps, they can purchase credits from other countries or companies that are under their caps.

Designed by the Clinton administration, the emissions-trading system is modeled on a system established in the U.S. for the regulation of sulfur dioxide and other conventional pollutants from power plants. It allows the marketplace to determine the price of emissions credits and has been hailed by economists as the most efficient way to reduce pollution.

Since the U.S. has not signed onto the treaty, most of the trading is done in Europe, though Canada is considering a similar program. California is studying whether to establish a trading system within the state, and seven Northeastern states say they are developing a regional cap-and-trade program.

In addition, some U.S. companies anticipating that the U.S. eventually will join the treaty have agreed voluntarily to cap their carbon pollution as part of a new Chicago futures market.

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