Friday, January 02, 2004

Breathe Deep

I love the smell of an unregulated industry at work. It smells like, like, a slow death.

Two years after President Bush declared he could combat global warming without mandatory controls, the administration has launched a broad array of initiatives and research, yet it has had little success in recruiting companies to voluntarily curb their greenhouse gas emissions, according to official documents, reports and interviews.

At the heart of the president's strategy is "Climate Leaders," a program that recruits the nation's industrial polluters to voluntarily devise ways to curb their emissions by 10 percent or more in the coming decade. Scientists believe these greenhouse gas emissions, which include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, are contributing to a troubling rise in the earth's temperature that could disrupt weather patterns and cause flooding.

Only a tiny fraction of the thousands of U.S. companies with pollution problems -- 50 in all -- have joined Climate Leaders, and of the companies that have signed up, only 14 have set goals. Many of the companies that are volunteering say they did so either because reducing emissions makes good economic sense or because they were being nudged by state and federal regulators.

[. . .]

Many of the companies with the worst pollution records have shunned the voluntary programs because even a voluntary commitment would necessitate costly cleanups or possibly could set the stage for future government regulation, according to industry insiders.

Most of what the administration hopes to accomplish in terms of reduced emissions will not become apparent for many decades to come, experts agree. The president's more immediate goal, announced on Valentine's Day 2002, is to reduce greenhouse gas intensity -- the amount of gas put into the atmosphere per unit of economy -- by 18 percent over the next 10 years. Congress's research arm, the General Accounting Office, concluded in October that Bush's plan would reduce overall emissions only 2 percentage points below what the nation would achieve with no federal program whatsoever.

One more reason that electing anybody, a horse's ass, a pig's right testicle, is better than voting for Bush. (Okay, I exaggerate. Make it the pig's left testicle.)