Bush CO2 plan would revamp incentives for low-emission technologies

Anticipating congressional debate on global warming, President Bush has unveiled proposals for arresting greenhouse gas emissions, including a plan to overhaul government incentives for low-emission technologies.

On the eve of climate change talks in Paris, Bush proposed April 16 that the United States slow the growth of power sector greenhouse gas emissions so they peak in the next 10 to 15 years and decline thereafter, achieving a halt to greenhouse gas growth by 2025.

The president said the first step began in 2002, when he set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas �intensity� by 18 percent through 2012. Reducing greenhouse gas intensity means holding greenhouse gas emission increases to a lower rate than the rate of growth of the economy. He said the U.S. is on track to meet that goal even as the economy has grown by 17 percent.

Bush’s proposal — aimed at influencing upcoming U.S. debate of mandatory carbon dioxide rules in June — rejects increasing taxes, abandoning nuclear power, or adopting trade barriers as ways to reduce emissions. He also said coal-burning electric utilities — the biggest single source of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions — need to find high-tech ways of trapping greenhouse gases.

The president urged overhaul and simplification of incentives to encourage broader commercialization and use of lower emission technologies.

�I believe part of any solution means reforming today’s complicated mix of incentives to make the commercialization and use of new, lower-emission technologies more competitive,� Bush said. �Today we have different incentives for different technologies — from nuclear power, to clean coal, to wind and solar energy. What we need to do is consolidate them into a single, expanded program.�

He said the incentive program would have three features:
o The incentive should be carbon-weighted to make lower-emission power sources less expensive relative to higher-emission sources — and should take into account the nation’s security needs;
o The incentive should be technology-neutral �because the government should not be picking winners and losers in this emerging market�;
o The incentive should be long-lasting providing a positive and reliable market signal not only for investment in a technology, but also for the investments of domestic manufacturing capacity and infrastructure.

Bush: Reduce regulatory barriers

Bush also proposed reducing regulatory and political barriers to new technologies, including difficulties in siting new transmission lines.

�Large-scale renewable energy installations are most likely to be built in sparsely populated areas — which will require advanced, interstate transmission systems to deliver this power to major population centers,� he said. �If we’re serious about confronting climate change, then we have to be serious about addressing these obstacles.�

Bush said, with the congressional debate coming up in two months, the nation also is dealing with a series of other regulatory challenges in the context of the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act, which were not designed to deal with issues of global climate.

�Some courts are taking laws written more than 30 years ago — to primarily address local and regional environmental effects — and applying them to global climate change,� he said.

�… If these laws are stretched beyond their original intent, they could override the programs Congress just adopted, and force the government to regulate more than just power plant emissions. They could also force the government to regulate smaller users and producers of energy — from schools to stores to hospitals and apartment buildings. This would make the federal government act like a local planning and zoning board, having crippling effects on our entire economy.�

Bush also said the administration would work toward creation of an international clean technology fund that would help finance low-emissions energy projects in the developing world.

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