TCS Daily

Flawed Climate Accord DOA in U.S. Senate

By James K. Glassman - November 13, 2000 12:00 AM

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., in an interview with Tech Central Station host Jim Glassman, says that the Kyoto Protocol under discussion at the U.N. Conference of the Participants in the Netherlands beginning this week will never win Senate approval. "You could not propel your economy with the kind of limitations on energy use that the Kyoto Protocol puts on the United States," Hagel warns. "It just would be impossible. You would find that your economy would slow down, people would be put out of work, and you'd find a worldwide recession."

James K. Glassman: So, senator, the 6th U.N. Conference of the Parties on Climate Change next week is going to attempt to implement the goals that were approved in Kyoto, and yet the Senate has yet to ratify that Kyoto Protocol. In fact, you and Senator Byrd won unanimous support to resolutions before Kyoto setting certain requirements for the treaty. Have they been met, and what chances any agreement made in The Hague have to be approved in the Senate today?

Sen. Chuck Hagel: The fact is, if you go back and review the Byrd-Hagel resolution, which passed 95-0, and it is very clear, very simple, very direct and it did such two things. The United States Senate would not ratify any protocol, any treaty that did not, number 1, include all nations of the world under the same kind of mandatory, legally binding conditions as Europe or the United States. Number two, we would not ratify any treaty that will do economic harm to the United States. Right now, of course, the first condition of the Byrd-Hagel resolution is not even close to being complied with. And as far as ratifying it, no industrialized nation has ratified the treaty yet, and not one of the 134 developing countries have even indicated any willingness to voluntarily abide by any of the protocols of nations' stipulations.

Glassman: What about its effect on the Economy?

Sen. Hagel: All economic analyses of the consequences of the protocol show that it would do very significant damage to the economy of this country across the board - unemployment, GDP, cost of energy and any measurement you take. So that second part of the Byrd-Hagel resolution is not being complied with, so therefore, I don't see how you get to any resolution on the Kyoto Protocol as it now stands, where you would have the United States Senate, even in its closely-divided form, come close to ratifying this treaty.

Glassman: Will you be talking with international officials at COP 6 about remedies remedy that situation?

Sen. Hagel: As any member of Congress, I don't have any authority to negotiate on behalf of anyone. I will be discussing the issues with members of the international community as I have at previous COP meetings in Argentina and Kyoto. But I doubt if my interest and my thoughts and my suggestions are going to be very important.

Glassman: Why is that?

Sen. Hagel: Because I think the United Nations officials and those who are in control of that Kyoto Protocol process, they are well down the road here and not about ready to unravel or change any part of that protocol.

Glassman: You have often been viewed as a skeptic about the effects of climate change by its exponents. Has anything happened in the last three years to change your views about the reported dangers of global warning?

Sen. Hagel: No. I would say I'm even more of a skeptic. Why do I say that? Well, I mean, if you look at some of the developments of the last few months: Dr. Jim Hansen from NASA, who in 1988 really defined before a Senate Committee hearing the issue of global warming's most dangerous element, and that is the carbon dioxide emission level across the world, has come out and said that, maybe, the priority of concern was a little misplaced. He is saying now that, maybe, carbon dioxide is not the biggest problem and biggest culprit here that we once thought it was. Maybe there are other factors, like methane or particles of CFCs that are more damaging than carbon dioxide.

Glassman: What does that tell you?

Sen. Hagel: Well, it tells you once again that we are still we are in the realm of great uncertainty here. Scientists are still very unclear on what is happening, and we just don't know enough about it. And when Jim Hansen comes out and says that, I think we all better listen. Recently, Science Magazine and others are coming out talking about what others have said over the last few years about the impact of the sun's radiation on climate change. That does not surprise me. But I would have thought as a layman that we might factor in the sun when we were talking about climate change.

So, there are a number of developments here that have come out over the last few months especially make us all to question - and the word question is important here because I have never said and I have never represented that climate change is unimportant or is not happening. Because, of course, climate change is happening. We have 10,000 years of fairly significant records based on ice samples, carbon samples and other ways of measuring this -- reliable measurements. And we have had very significant changes in the climate long before we ever had a problem with man-made greenhouse gas emissions. We also know that for about 6,000 to 7,000 of those years the world was warmer than it is today. So we are relying on computer models to project out into the future some of these cataclysmic summaries and final assessments and analyses over the next 5,100 years. I don't think we have come to that sophisticated position in climate where we can feed into computers, no matter how sophisticated, and predict what the world's going to be in fifteen to a hundred years. I just do not buy into that.

Now, it does not mean that we should not pay attention, no. We should pay attention. We should understand as best we can what is happening out there. But we must rely on science. And if there is going to be an improvement in our environment, which we should continue to strive for -- America has led in that in the last twenty-five years -- it's going to come from the market place. It's going to come from technology. And it's not going to come from U.N. mandates; it's not going to come from some outrageous, arbitrary decision that the United States is going to comply with getting down to 7 percent less 1990 man-made greenhouse gas emissions. By what means do we determine that? Who said that? We got so many unanswered questions out there that we need to pay attention to, we need to continue to focus on. So therefore people like Senators Craig, Murkowski, Byrd myself and others have come forward with legislation in the Congress to actually do something positive, to put more federal funding into joint industry-government projects that look at some other possibilities, funding for renewable resources of energy and better ways to clean up our environment. But the track that the Kyoto Protocol takes us down, in my opinion, is unworkable. It does not make any sense.

Glassman: Could you explain that last point more fully?

Sen. Hagel: If for no other reason than how are you going to affect the man-made greenhouse gas emissions status of the world when you leave out 124 nations? And many of those nations are the largest greenhouse gas emitters today. Of course, China will overtake the United States in a couple of years. India, China, Mexico, South Korea, they are all out. So, how do you think you are going to be able to stop greenhouse gas emission if you don't stop all of it? Even if you thought you needed to do that, even if we give them that, even if you agree with that premise that greenhouse gas emissions are the culprit here for destroying the world and heating the world, which I do not buy, but even if you believe that, the Kyoto Protocol would not do what it's set out to do.

Glassman: We are, as we speak, uncertain who the next President of the United States will be. Al Gore, if he wins, negotiated the agreement at Kyoto. Do you think that he's going to try to push a treaty through the Senate, if he is elected president, or try to circumvent Congress by trying to implement the treaty administratively?

Sen. Hagel: You're right, Gore did, as a matter of fact, negotiate the treaty, even circumventing his own president in 1997. I recall vividly when President Clinton said about a week before Kyoto that he had given his negotiators and brought Stu Eisenstat in, that he had instructed them not to go below 1990 levels, and that the President would not budge from that, there were certain dynamics that he just would not stray from.

Glassman: When you say 1990 levels, you mean -

Sen. Hagel: Man-made greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. We would not set that as our agreed to target to get to between 2008 and 2012 -- lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions than were reported in the United States in 1990. That 1990 baseline was as far down as he would go. And then, of course, Mr. Gore went to Kyoto and made a deal, and that deal was to go 7 percent below the 1990 baseline.

And so, I start with that, because you are right. It was Mr. Gore who came in at the last moment, and I sat right next to him at the table, and said, this is the deal we will make. Yes, Mr. Gore, obviously has a rather considerable interest in this because it is his imprimatur that is all over that deal. Now, if he is president, what would he do? Will he force it on the Senate? So far, the Clinton-Gore administration has not come near sending that treaty up. Not even for discussions, or for hearings. It's like dead hands, nobody talks about it.

But yet at the same time, they continually try a backdoor implementation of the aspects of it through the E(nvironmental) P(rotection) A(gency) budget and other processes, which we snag up all the time, and say no, no, to constantly in the appropriations process. We're not going to do that. So they constantly try to go around the Congress. But would a President Gore try to bring it straight up. I don't know. I don't know what he would do.

Glassman: You don't know, but what do you think he might do?

Sen. Hagel: I can tell you and I think that Mr. Gore is a pretty clever fellow. I think he can count the votes pretty clearly. And under no conditions do I see this Kyoto Protocol, and I think Mr. Gore would agree with this, ever coming close to getting 67 votes in the United States Senate. That is not even debatable. So, my guess is that he would continue to try to work around the edges as they have been in the last three years in trying to move around the Congress, rather than taking it straight up.

Glassman: By the way, on that subject, what has the administration been up to lately in making that kind of backdoor effort? For example, what do you think of EPA's effort to delay utilities' spending on maintenance to extend the life of coal-fired power plants. Is that one of those efforts?

Sen. Hagel: Sure, sure. I can give you an entire inventory of those kinds of efforts that they kind of backdoor, as you used that term. It is exactly right. It's this constant going around the back or around the side, in subterfuge, and never, never hitting it straight up; never being honest; never being direct. And we constantly have to go in and say, "No, you can't do that." But what you laid out is one clear example of what they're trying to.

Glassman: And they're not really making any headway in doing that, is that right?

Sen. Hagel: No, they're not. As long as Republicans continue to control Congress, I think we'll be able to stop them most of the time.

Glassman: Now, if Governor Bush becomes the next president, he has said that he supports more study on climate change. But he seems to also have indicated that he would support some kind of efforts to reduce emissions. Would he have your support if he went in that direction?

Sen. Hagel: Well, it depends on what it is. He has made very clear, however, that he does not support the Kyoto Protocol. He has made that very clear. And so, I think that's where you start. From what I know of Governor Bush's position on this, and I've never had any direct discussion with him on it, it is probably pretty much where I fall out; where most of us are up here. More studies as I said. Some of my colleagues and I have introduced legislation and actually put more money into the federal budget to do that. And I think that is the correct way to go. As far as going beyond that and implementing any specific action, I've never head Governor Bush talk about that.

Glassman: So you don't think that the government at this point should take any steps to reduce or force industries to reduce greenhouse emissions?

Sen. Hagel: Let's don't forget we got tremendous laws on the books now, the Clean Air Act, and a number of environmental laws that industry is living with right now, that control a tremendous amount of this. And it is economically in the best interests of most industries to find the most effective and efficient clean-burning sources of energy. That just makes sense for anybody, and with clean-coal technology we made tremendous progress, we're continuing to make progress in that area, as we are with oil and natural gas. And we continue to work on fuel cells for cars and make good progress in a lot of these different areas.

But what I've always said is that Kyoto was not so much about the environment, it was more about energy, because Kyoto is essentially a direct threat, especially for our country, to energy use. You would probably find an eventual rationing of energy in this country if we would ever get ourselves in the position to accept the Kyoto Protocol. You could not propel your economy with the kind of limitations on energy use that the Kyoto Protocol puts on the United States. It just would be impossible. You would find that your economy would slow down, people would be put out of work, and you'd find a worldwide recession as this thing would back up all over. The consequences of this are just incredible, and nobody wants to talk about that on the Gore side.

So you've got to connect the dots here. This is not just about the environment or about greenhouse gas emissions; it's about energy and energy use. And every new plant we build and every new plant that we help finance or partner with around the world involves clean energy, and we're making tremendous progress.

Glassman: This is the last question, sort of the flipside. You just talked energy, is there something that the government should be doing to increase production of energy in this country?

Sen. Hagel: Well, if you look at this administration, what they've done is to destroy that productive initiative. It's been frightening. You know the numbers of this, and what's happened in the last eight years? Thirty-six refineries have closed down. We're producing less oil today than we have at any time since 1954. We've not had any new natural gas pipelines built, no nuclear plants up. This administration is trying to tear down dams that provide hydroelectric power. And, of course, coal is terrible. You don't have any kind of coal policy.

So, how are we going to fuel our economy? I like windmills. They're attractive. I don't think windmills, though, are going to do it. So, the energy piece is probably it's the most important dynamic of this that has to be factored in.

Glassman: And you think simply, for example, rescinding some of the steps that the previous administration has made, would in a new administration, bring more energy on line?

Sen. Hagel: Well, I think you've got to. Let's take two specific acts of President Clinton. In 1995, he vetoed Congress's action to move toward some exploration, some initial exploration, of the national wildlife refuge in northern Alaska. That area is only about a hundred miles from Prudhoe Bay, which is producing significant amounts of oil, and it's doing it in a very environmentally sound way -- the environment is tremendous, the caribou herd has quadrupled. Anybody who has been up there is astounded at how good the environment is. Nothing has been spoiled. What we're talking about here is a hundred miles from there, and in the entire wildlife preserve of about a million and a half acres, we're only talking about 2,000 acres. So, yes, you could turn that around from President Clinton's 1995 veto. That would be one tangible action.

Number two, the president arbitrarily through an executive order took all exploration of the outer continental shelf drilling for oil off the board. That's another area that I think we need to revisit.

And then the president could help to incentivize more tertiary drilling and more options for coal. This country is bountiful with coal. We have a lot of soft coal; we have clean-coal technology. We need to go back and look at some of these other options and then probably review the nuclear piece of this. My guess is that we're probably so far down the line with the anti-nuclear nonsense that we're not going to renew that as an option. But I think you got to look at it.

The next president has got to really provide some leadership on developing an energy policy or one of these days we're going to be in a lot of trouble. When you're about 60 percent dependent on foreign source oil, you have put yourself in a very, very bad national security position. Europeans and the Japanese, unfortunately for them, don't have many resources to draw from. But we do. They are dependent on the Middle East for foreign source oil, and we are putting ourselves in a very vulnerable position by not developing an energy policy that is going to move us toward some independence. And the Kyoto Protocol just takes us in the opposite direction,

Glassman: Finally, you will be going to the COP-6 Conference in The Hague, when are you leaving?

Sen. Hagel: I'm going over on Saturday, the 18th.

Glassman: And so am I. And you are going as an observer, or what?

Sen. Hagel: Well, I've been chairman of the Senate Climate Change Observer Group for the last two or three years, and I'm going there like two of other of my Republican colleagues.

TCS Daily Archives