May 11, 2001

May 11, 2001 | News Releases on Energy and Environment

Bush Right to Abandon Flawed Kyoto Protocol, Analyst Says

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2001-President Bush is still taking heat from environmentalists for announcing that the United States will not sign the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty designed to cut "greenhouse gases." But he acted correctly in rejecting an agreement that would spell economic disaster for the United States, a new Heritage Foundation paper says.

"Many Americans are already struggling to cope with soaring energy prices," says Heritage environmental analyst Charli Coon. "And complying with this treaty will make matters worse." A recent study by the American Council for Capital Formation shows that attempting to comply with the Kyoto emissions standards would cause gasoline prices to climb by at least another 30 percent, and electricity rates to rise by 50 percent to 80 percent.

U.S. productivity would drop anywhere from $100 billion to $400 billion under the treaty, Coon says, because its emissions reduction mandates would force a dramatic contraction in economic output. "American workers could expect to see their wages shrink and living standards to fall," she says. "And more than 2 million Americans would lose their jobs, most of them in the low- and moderate-income brackets."

American competitiveness would suffer as well. Developing countries-many of which escape the treaty's draconian requirements-could easily undercut U.S. merchants on products that use energy-intensive manufacturing processes, such as steel, paper, automobiles and chemicals. By 2020, American manufacturers would have to curb production by up to 15 percent if the United States adopted the Kyoto treaty, Coon says.

Worse, the treaty exempts developing nations, whose carbon dioxide emissions will surpass those of the industrialized world before 2020. Even if the United States met its targets under the treaty, greenhouse gas emissions won't decrease over that period because developing countries will produce more, Coon says. In fact, the situation could worsen as energy-intensive industries move to undeveloped countries where energy use is less efficient but less expensive.

America's friends in the European Union have been less than helpful, Coon says. EU leaders accuse President Bush of being "an enemy of the environment." Yet no EU nation has ratified the treaty, and none are close to ratifying it, despite predictions by experts that carbon dioxide emissions in Europe will be up to 14 percent above 1990 levels by 2010.

Even if the agreement somehow did come into force, the measures it calls for wouldn't reduce greenhouse gases, according to Coon. "The science on which much of the treaty is based is simply unreliable," she says. "It fails to account for historical climate patterns, it lumps together human and non-human causes of greenhouse gas emissions, and it rests on the most pessimistic and unsubstantiated scientific assumptions."

One study Coon cites, published last year by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, suggests carbon dioxide may not be the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases, even though carbon dioxide reduction remains the focus of treaty advocates.

At the next Kyoto Protocol meeting, Coon recommends that President Bush order the U.S. delegation to: propose market-based solutions that encourage countries and businesses to voluntarily curb pollution; urge nations to offer tax cuts and other incentives to entice businesses to buy state-of-the-art equipment to curb pollution; and try to replace the Kyoto Protocol with policies based on sound science and free-market principles.

"The Kyoto Protocol simply won't work," Coon says. "Even if it comes into force, it won't do what its supporters claim it will. All it will do is drag down the U.S. economy, which drags down the world economy. We need to know more about climate change and how human behavior affects it before we lock ourselves into policies such as this."

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