Senators favour voluntary carbon emission reductions over Kyoto ratification

US senators have introduced legislation to reduce carbon emissions by strengthening existing voluntary carbon emissions reductions programs, rather than by implementing the terms of the Kyoto Treaty or by giving the US EPA more power over US energy policy.

The Energy and Climate Policy Act of 1999 will create a new $2 billion research, development and demonstration programme to develop new technology to help stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations. It will also promote voluntary reductions in emissions and will set up an Office of Global Climate Change within the Department of Energy (DoE).

The Act was introduced by Frank H. Murkowski, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in opposition to a bill to provide credit for businesses meeting emissions limits set by the Kyoto Treaty.

Reacting to the latter bill, Murkowski said: “This bill essentially would implement the unratified Kyoto protocol by presupposing there will be a cap on emissions and offering credit against that cap. This clearly is a case of putting the cart before the horse. We should not rush to implement a treaty that has not been ratified or even submitted to the Senate for consideration.”

According to DoE’s Energy Information Administration, the Kyoto treaty would raise gasoline prices by as much as 66 cents per gallon and electricity prices to consumers by as much as 86 percent. The treaty binds the US to a 31% reduction in carbon emissions between 2008/ 2012. The US government signed the agreement in November 1998, but Republican Senators have prevented the US ratifying the Treaty, saying that developing countries have no binding requirements to reduce their emissions.

“Nevertheless, these are the same nations whose emissions will outpace the developed world by the year 2020,” Murkowski said. “In fact, the carbon emissions of China and India alone will exceed those of the US by the year 2010. I am not convinced we should be throwing away the prosperity of future generations of Americans by embracing a treaty that isn’t fair, that won’t work and will produce no environmental benefit.”

Senator Murkowski also expressed concern over provisions in the bill that essentially would designate carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. “I’m not ready to provide the Environmental Protection Agency with the authority to regulate a naturally occurring gas that we all exhale every time we breathe.”

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