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Two Lawmakers Issue Plan to Reduce US Air Pollution - 2003-01-09

Two key lawmakers have proposed a bipartisan plan to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, which scientists believe cause global warming. But the proposal faces opposition from the Bush administration.

Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Senator Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, are sponsoring the plan, which would require U.S. power plants and industries to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Mr. McCain unveiled the proposal at a hearing of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which he chairs. "The United States is responsible for 25 percent of the worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. It is time for the United States to do its part to address this global problem," he said.

His proposal would establish a nationwide cap on greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say contribute to the Earth's rising temperature. Industries would have to limit their emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2016.

The plan would offer a trading system under which industries with excessive emissions could buy credits from more efficient companies that have reduced emissions beyond their targets.

But the proposal faces an uncertain future. The Bush administration opposes mandatory limits of greenhouse gas emissions, favoring a voluntary approach instead.

"We do have evidence of global change," said James Mahoney of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "I think it is important to cite that there are substantial uncertainties about causes, and because of that uncertainty about causes, there is also substantial uncertainty about the mitigation methods that might be effective in time," added Mr. Mahoney, who is director of the administration's Interagency Climate Change Science Program.

The Bush administration also opposes the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which calls for mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as well. President Bush says the treaty, which was signed by the Clinton administration but never ratified by the Senate, would hurt the U.S. economy. He also objects to the fact that large developing nations like China and India are exempt from the mandatory cuts in emissions.

It is a point underscored by Senator John Sununu, a New Hampshire Republican, who argued that developing nations have just as much a role to play in limiting carbon dioxide emissions as the United States. "In 10 or 15 years, developing nations which are not party to the discussion or regulation in the Kyoto protocol, will be responsible for the majority of the CO2 emissions in the world," he said.

But Senator Lieberman, who will likely run for President next year, says U.S. reluctance to address global warming is angering U.S. allies at a time when the United States is trying to build coalitions in the fight against terrorism and a possible war against Iraq.

"America's stature in the world will be affected, but more practically and importantly, some of our most important alliances, particularly as we are at war against terrorism, and perhaps soon against Iraq, are affected by our unwillingness to join the rest of the world in dealing with a problem that the people of some our closest allies are anxious about," he said.

Mr. Mahoney, of the interagency climate change program, says the administration is taking steps to respond to the problem. He says Mr. Bush has proposed a plan of incentives and tax credits to encourage businesses to voluntarily reduce emissions, and has backed research into new technologies that would be less polluting.