White House Downplays Emission Caps Talk

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - President Bush is expected to talk about climate change and alternative energy sources during his State of the Union address Tuesday night, and a new coalition of business and environmental groups is pressing both the White House and Congress to take action "as soon as possible."

The White House is already pouring cold water on their hopes, however.

"The science of climate change is real," Jim Rodgers, chief executive officer of Duke Energy, said at a press conference in Washington, D.C., Monday.

"We know enough to act now, we must act now," he said. "It's time for our nation's political leaders to come together and address climate change."

Rodgers urged the federal government to promote "wind, solar, nuclear, and numerous energy efficiency technologies" and to set up a program to "cap and trade" emissions of "greenhouse gases" -- carbon dioxide and other pollutants blamed for climate change.

A cap and trade program would set limits on the amount of emissions a business may produce. Those that emit less can sell their remaining "credits" to heavier polluters. The proposal is similar to the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol, which the Bush administration rejected on the grounds that it would harm the U.S. economy.

Rodgers said the caps "must be mandatory so there is no doubt about our commitment to concrete action."

The new coalition, called the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), comprises 10 businesses -- Alcoa, BP America, Caterpillar, Duke Energy, DuPont, FPL Group, General Electric, Lehman Brothers, PG&E Corporation, and PNM Resources -- and four non-governmental organizations -- World Resources Institute, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pew Center on Global Climate Change and Environmental Defense.

USCAP wants greenhouse gas emissions to be kept within five percent of current levels in five years, and to be at 10 to 30 percent lower than current levels within 15 years. By 2050, the group says emissions levels should be 60 to 80 percent lower. Congress should take action "as soon as possible" to set those targets, it said.

Jeffrey Immelt, chief executive officer of General Electric, told the press conference, "We are very confident in this industry that the United States can lead in this."

"Solving global warming cannot be done by the United States alone, but is inconceivable without U.S. leadership, said Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday, the president is expected to speak about the climate issue, and there has been some speculation that he may signal a change in direction.

In last year's speech, Bush announced that "America is addicted to oil" and proposed cutting foreign oil imports by 75 percent in 20 years. He also pledged to press for the expanded use of ethanol in gasoline, cleaner burning coal and nuclear energy.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said Monday that Bush remains opposed to emissions caps.

"There has been some talk about ... binding, economy-wide carbon caps in the speech, but they are not part of the president's proposal," he said.

"It's worth saying that the president has always believed, when it comes to climate change, that the best way to achieve reductions is through innovation and to figure out ways to come up with energy sources that are going to meet our economy's constant demand for energy -- and at the same time, do it in a way that's going to be friendly for the environment," Snow said.

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