Bush Carbon Policy Stirs Controversy in Congress

Minnesota Congressmen critical of Bush CO2 policy reversal.

Published: 23-Mar-2001

When President George W. Bush announced last week he was reneging on his campaign pledge to seek reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, he set into motion what might be among the first controversial issues of his presidency.

Minnesota Democratic U.S. Reps. Bill Luther and Betty McCollum spoke against Bush's action Monday at the Capitol.

"The president's flip-flop on this critical environmental position will ensure the continued proliferation of pollutants that produce the greenhouse gases that are warming our climate," McCollum said.

In a prepared statement, McCollum said she and Luther sent a letter to Bush strongly urging him to "keep your promise to the American people and seek reductions in the emissions of carbon dioxide."

The Environmental Protection Agency links some environmental changes in the Twin Cities area to global warming.

For instance, the average temperature in Minneapolis has risen one degree Fahrenheit over the last century. Precipitation in some parts of the state has increased as much as 20 percent. The EPA predicts Minnesota's environment might change even more in the 21st century.

Both representatives also criticized Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chairman of the House Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee. Luther said Barton promised as long as he was chairman of the committee, a carbon dioxide reduction proposal would be permanently off the table.

"That is no way to begin a discussion of long-range energy policy in this country. And it's absolutely no way to engage in bipartisanship, as has been talked about so much by leaders in Washington over the last few months," Luther said.

However, Barton spokeswoman Samantha Jordan said Barton had been opposed to any legislation creating regulations because it would be detrimental to the coal industry.

"He doesn't even begin to know how you would regulate something like CO2," Jordon said. "It's so prolific in our society. Plants breathe it in and it's in everything right down to Coca-Cola."

Luther also criticized the Bush administration for attempting to use the California energy crisis as an excuse to backtrack on the campaign pledge.

"There has been a lot of talk coming out of Washington -- particularly the White House -- about the California energy crises. But the truth is, we cannot look to the problems California is having as an excuse to destroy our treasured natural resources," Luther said.

Tony Sutton, executive director of the Minnesota GOP, said, "I think it's a cheap shot when the president's trying to deal with a legitimate crisis in the state of California, for the Democrats -- especially Democrats like Luther and McCollum -- to use this to attack the president."

Bush is committed to the environment, Sutton said, but the situation is "one of those things where you have to balance the needs of the people for electricity versus the environment."

Sutton blamed the current energy crisis on "burdensome regulations the liberals have put upon the production of electricity." He said Minnesota will soon face its own energy crisis and demand will have to be met through building more power plants.

McCollum also spoke of the difficult balancing act between the environment and business.

"The health of our economy is important, but the health of our environment is the essence of all life on this planet," she said.

In addition to politicians, Chuck Dayton of the Minnesota Interfaith Climate Change Campaign voiced his concern about the impact of global warming, which he said will fall hardest on the poor -- particularly those in developing countries.

"Our faith in God the creator is inseparable from our responsible stewardship of God's creation," he said.

McCollum and Luther advocated the administration adopting a long-term energy plan and serving as an example for the rest of the world.

"As a country we must commit ourselves to finding more practical, cleaner, renewable forms of energy," Luther said.

McCollum agreed and said Bush's "flip-flop on carbon dioxide undermines our nation's ability to show global leadership in the environmental community."

Environmental leaders, such as Sierra Club's Ginny Yingling, criticized the president for changing his mind, calling it a "slap in the face to the American public. Because when he was asked why he changed his position, he said, 'Now I'm dealing with reality' -- as if the campaign for the presidency had nothing to do with reality.

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