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Bush Presents Greenhouse Gas Plan To Give Tax Incentives for Reductions

By Eric Pianin

President Bush Thursday for the first time offered a detailed description of his vision for combating global warming, one that would gradually curtail greenhouse gas emissions by relying more on voluntary efforts and market forces than government edict.

The speech, delivered shortly before Bush departs this weekend for a lengthy swing through Asia, was aimed at addressing rising concerns overseas and on Capitol Hill that the United States had shirked its responsibility for dealing with a troubling international problem by disavowing the Kyoto protocol last March that would have imposed tough mandatory limits on U.S. carbon emissions, a major cause of global warming.

The president argued that the mandatory limits under the international accord would have resulted in billions of dollars in industry losses and the elimination of nearly 5 million U.S. jobs. And while acknowledging the serious threat of global warming, he insisted that the government could do more by spending billions more on research, new technology and tax incentives to promote voluntary reductions than to attempt to impose mandatory targets.

“As president of the United States, charged with safeguarding the welfare of the American people and American workers, I will not commit our nation to an unsound international treaty that will throw millions of our citizens out of work,” Bush declared in a speech delivered at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in suburban Washington.

The president’s plan in effect would preserve the status quo, allowing the United States to continue emitting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases at roughly the rate it has done for the past decade but with the promise of $4.6 billion of incentives and tax credits over the next five years for research and to encourage voluntary reductions by utilities and manufacturers.

Bush also vowed to take “the most significant step America has ever taken” to cut power plant emissions of other pollutants, including nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury, that are major factors in urban smog, acid rain and asthma and heart disease. The president said his approach would result in reductions of emissions from current levels by two thirds to three quarters over the next ten years, but some environmental groups disputed those claims and warned that the reductions may be less than would occur under existing law and court rulings.

The speech drew largely predictable responses, with industry groups including the Edison Electric Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Mining Association, praising the president for bold leadership and a flexible approach.