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March 14, 2008 / Mridul

US Administration Lacks The Will To Cut CO2 Emissions

One of the first thing Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd did after winning elections was that he ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which his predecessor John Howard refused to do. Kyoto Protocol came into force in Australia on March 11. The Australian government has committed itself to a Renewable Energy Target and seeks to produce 20% of the total energy from renewable sources by the year 2020. The Department of Climate Change hopes to launch an emissions trading by 2010 which would further assist the government to reach its target.

US Administration seems to be moving in a completely opposite direction

Environmental Protection Agency recently ordered that 9 billion gallons of ethanol be blended with gasoline this year. Most of that will be ethanol made from corn; last year, the U.S. produced 5.8 billion gallons of the stuff. This means that there will be more corn cultivation in states like Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin and a subsequent expansion of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

At a time when inflation is high and food prices have risen sharply the US government is finding it difficult to strike a balance between production of biofuel crops and cereal crops.

In addition, the Environment Protection Agency seems to have halted its efforts to protect the environment. Late last year EPA officials proposed regulations which would have achieved CO2 reductions faster than recently passed legislation requiring improvements in automobile fuel economy. The proposed plan never reached the Capitol Hill.

Curiously the officials have now stopped working on CO2 regulation of automobiles thus violating the directives of the Supreme Court. Also, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson recently refused green light to California’s plan to impose tougher emission limits on car manufacturers. The scientists advised Johnson that California’s plan was based on facts and was meritorious.

But Johnson blasted California’s plan saying the Bush Administration’s plan was enough to tackle the problem of vehicle emissions. Johnson overruled experts’ advise after automakers met Vice President Dick Cheney and a Chrysler executive told EPA in a letter why California shouldn’t be allowed to go ahead with its proposed plan.

This is the first time in 37-years of the Clean Air Act that California hasn’t been allowed to set its own air pollution policies. The plan would have achieved better results four years faster than than the federal bill.

Australia & US: Stark contrast in climate policies

Both Australia & US have some of the highest per capita emissions in the world and were ranked 54 and 55 respectively in this year’s Climate Change Performance Index. Yet what the new Australian government has done in its first 100 days could not be done by many US administrations. It is noteworthy that United States got a zero for climate policy in the CCPI.

Although many experts claim that the Labor party in Australia will now face major economic & political hurdles in its endeavor to meet the Kyoto targets still it is commendable that the government hasn’t back down, whereas many in the US administration are still busy listening to the automakers instead of the scientists.

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