- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 16, 2008

President Bush today will lay out how Congress should combat global warming, proposing a specific national goal for carbon-based pollution but rejecting a proposal by Democrats and Sen. John McCain to impose mandatory caps on industry to reduce greenhouse gases.

It marks a departure for Mr. Bush, who until now has fought new congressional mandates on carbon emissions.

According to several people briefed on the announcement, to be made in the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Bush will tell Congress he won’t accept any of the plans under review in the House and Senate.

Instead, he will tell Congress to pass a bill that won’t harm the economy and that includes a mechanism to make sure international economic competitors don’t gain an advantage. But he will for the first time propose a target for U.S. carbon emissions, making good on a pledge last year to take leadership on that issue.

The decision to change course was first reported by The Washington Times on Monday.

But the president has backed away from calling for the sort of cap-and-trade system favored by Democrats, including Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and by Mr. McCain, the Republicans’ presumed presidential nominee. That system would set a cap on total carbon emissions — a key greenhouse gas — and lower that level over time. Businesses would be allowed to trade credits for emissions among themselves, allowing the market to help regulate costs.

One person briefed on White House deliberations said a cap-and-trade program for electric utilities was dropped from the package yesterday, after the White House was flooded with complaints from industry officials and lobbyists.

“It got pulled out. It happened somewhere between this morning and five o’clock,” said the person, who said the Bush announcement still marks a significant departure from its policy for the last seven years.

“A threshold has been crossed here. They’ve abandoned the long-standing position in this debate, and that was, ‘The answer is technology, the answer is voluntary action, the answer is consumer-driven demand,’ and traded it for Congress’ idea of what might be the right answer.”

Many scientists say human activity is leading to an increase in greenhouse gases that could wreak havoc on the earth’s climate over the next century.

The White House announcement is timed to be a send-off for U.S. representatives headed to a meeting of representatives from major world economies, convening in Paris tomorrow and Friday.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said Mr. Bush will call for “long term and realistic intermediate goals for greenhouse gas emissions as part of our continuing leadership in the … process, which ensures that all major economies like France, Germany, China and India play a role in any international agreement so as to avoid a future Kyoto-like mistake.”

The administration argues Mr. Bush is being pressured by a looming regulatory train wreck. Environmental groups have sued to force action through existing laws such as the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The Environmental Protection Agency already has said it will take public comment to try to craft new rules.

“Having unelected bureaucrats regulating greenhouse gas at the direction of unelected judges is not the proper way to address this issue,” Mrs. Perino said. “If decisions of this magnitude with this large an impact on our economy are going to be made, they should be debated openly in a public arena with elected representatives of the people held accountable for the decisions.”

Opponents of the new plan, though, said embracing congressional action is a mistake, and comes just as Congress itself is shying away from mandatory controls in favor of having a political issue in the 2008 elections.

Christopher C. Horner, author of “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming,” said Mr. Bush’s announcement will actually embolden those in Congress who want to go beyond his recommendations.

“All this accomplished was to legitimize the agenda, wrench the political center of the issue far to the left, and leave some very good men and women out there hanging,” he said.

Mr. Horner said Mr. Bush should have acted in 2007, forcing Democrats to vote on the Kyoto agreement signed by President Clinton that would have tied the United States to European-style limits.

White House officials briefed some Republicans in Congress, and House Republicans are taking a wait-and-see approach.

“I think Republican members of the House of Representatives recognize that global climate change is a serious issue, and would support actions to address it, as long as those actions provide tangible environmental benefits to the American people and protect U.S. jobs,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio.

But senators pushing for stricter limits were excluded from the briefings, including Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, who is sponsoring one of the chief cap-and-trade proposals.

That bill was formerly known as the McCain-Lieberman bill, since Mr. McCain also was a sponsor. This year Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia has replaced the Arizona senator as the chief Republican sponsor.

Jon Ward contributed to this report.

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