Do Your Own Thing

by William Yeatman on September 28, 2007

Just back from the President’s speech discussing the ongoing, two-day Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change. My impressions are as follow:


I've long maintained that the administration’s greatest weakness on this issue – that is, after the habit of providing futile rhetorical overtures to appease the greens which are only used against them in ways never intended, but quite obviously invited – is the failure to tout U.S. emissions performance and/or burst our antagonists’ bubble about their purported superiority simply because they made a promise (that, someone official needs to note, they are spectacularly breaking while we reduce emissions growth to near zero). True to form, the President did not discuss comparative emissions other than to say unnamed countries have done similar things.

“Last year, the United States grew our economy, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Several other nations have made similar strides.”

Names please! Among the major economies? While the latter may be true I’ve not heard it before (though I don't keep close tabs on, say, Japan's emissions) and I fear it is another sop to the obvious constituency within his team (coughStateDepartmentcough) who insist that he not respond to Europe’s hypocritical attacks on him and U.S. performance, but instead keep trying to love bomb them.


This was followed by, “By setting this goal, we acknowledge there is a problem.”


Headline writers and pressure group lawyers demanding that EPA publish an “endangerment” finding under the Clean Air Act, phone your office!


Other than that, not too much was rhetorically given away, but for the hope-against-experience claim that “Wind power is becoming cost effective in many parts of America”, and that one day it could provide up to 20% of America's energy (sp? Even if he did say or meant electricity, this requires the willing suspension of disbelief).


Now, about the administration’s proposal that the major emitting economies get together to see what is it that they can agree on and go from there, the President confirmed that it will proceed under the UNFCCC (which Kyoto amended, a post-2012 successor to which is now being vainly sought), these fairly (by now) minor missteps and curiosities aside, this inescapably proposes a competing scenario to continuing Kyoto's approach after it expires, that is, the second of a two-track approach to "post-2012".


Bush summed it up with a soft pushback to his adversaries including in the media:

“What I'm telling you is we’ve got a strategy. And we've got a comprehensive approach”.

The bottom line of the plan is that each state promises to do what it wants. Which, of course, obviates any practical imperative for an international agreement, although it satisfied a political need.


The administration takes pains to argue that this is not an alternative to Kyoto, the threat of which sends the greens through the roof because heaven knows the thing wouldn't survive competition. And they have co-opted the UNFCCC’s head, Yvo de Boer into supporting it. Yet it is worth noting that such a Plan B is by no means inherently mutually exclusive with Kyoto. In fact, if Europe is so wedded to the rationing approach, they are fully able to continue going that route alone while others pursue the Bush approach. In all likelihood, the Kyoto approach will fall by the wayside as “do your own thing, baby” advances.


The problem remains, but continues to be compounded, of the rhetorical sops they promiscuously toss out in the vain hope that it will do anything but serve as fodder for a clever, lavishly funded, litigious anti-energy anti-growth anti-sovereignty industry riding this issue to their policy objectives.


So the good news is that the world, developed and developing, will thank Bush for having taken the fall allowing Kyoto to die. The bad news is that the lawyers of the U.S. will thank him for how he did it.

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