It tells us something about the failure of our political leadership at the national level when a group of states believe they have no choice but to band together and take productive action on their own.
Last week, nine northeastern states joined in a plan to halt the rising level of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, and Washington, Oregon, and California are poised to take the same approach. Oregon is also moving to follow the tougher automobile emissions standards and higher fuel mileage requirements recently set by California.
What these state governments are proposing is to first cap emissions at existing levels, then roll them back staring in 2015. The initial goal is to cut greenhouse gas discharges by 10 percent by 2020. For years, scientists have been warning that carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and similar gases are contributing to the melting of polar icecaps and altering temperatures across the planet.
Power plants that burn fossil fuels are reported to account for approximately 40 percent of the harmful carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.
The moves by the states represent a sharp break with President George W. Bush, who began his presidency by rejecting the proposed Kyoto Protocol, a global planning effort that had reached over several years. The Kyoto Protocol offered a pragmatic blueprint to begin reducing the level of these planet-threatening emissions, but President Bush and those in his administration objected to taking any painful steps to address this growing problem.
Despite the failure of the United States to participate, more than 150 countries have adopted the plan outlined in the Kyoto Protocol. It is a shame that the United States, once seen as a progressive world leader on many fronts, is turning its back on virtually the entire world over this issue, yet the Bush administration believes any mandatory limits would harm the nation's economy.
News flash for Mr. Bush: Global warming stands to have a far more drastic impact on the American people and people around the globe. Do something.
It's interesting that it is Republican Gov. George Pataki of New York who is spearheading the states' effort to combat global warming. Pataki is widely expected to be a presidential contender in 2008, and it seems the rush is on within the Republican Party to jettison the unpopular policies of President Bush. (Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, in another example, has broken with the Bush restrictions on stem cell research.)
Yes, the greenhouse gas control program may cause higher energy prices, but has anyone noticed that those prices are skyrocketing anyway? At least with this proposal, citizens of the world might have a more hospitable planet to show for their money. As it is, with business as usual, the energy corporations are capturing record profits and the American consumer is paying for it -- in more ways than one.