TCS Daily


The Kerry Protocol?

By William O'Keefe - November 2, 2004 12:00 AM

Russian ratification of the Kyoto Protocol has once again focused attention on the issue of climate change and President Bush's rejection of the Protocol. With the US election here, it is fair to ask how a Kerry Administration might address the climate issue and US participation in the Kyoto process.

To paraphrase one of the Senator's better known lines, I voted against it before I wanted to vote for it. In 1997, Senator Kerry joined his colleagues in voting unanimously to reject any treaty like Kyoto. He now says that it was a mistake to reject it, in spite of its flaws which he doesn't identify but wants to fix. But, Senator Kerry must know that Article 17 of the Protocol states that it cannot be changed until it enters into force. In other words, we have to accept its flaws and be bound by them, trusting that nations which would gain a competitive advantage by the burdens imposed on us would agree to level the playing field. There is about as much chance of that happening as seeing pigs fly.

But, let's suspend disbelief and consider what the future might look like if the US was part of the Kyoto Protocol. Senator Kerry has a fondness for Europe so we only have to look as far as the European Union and the UK. Both embrace policies to reduce CO2 emissions 60% below 1990 levels by 2050. According to an analysis by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as others, that means eliminating the use of fossil fuels -- coal, oil and gas -- that today provide roughly 80% of our energy. Wishful thinking aside, there are no existing or about to become commercial energy systems that can replace fossil fuels any time soon.

Policy folly does not stop here with the impractical. An organization set up by the UK government -- Energy Saving Trust -- prepared a study, "Forecasting the Future", that tells us what Kyoto and UK policy means for people there. It begins by stating,

"...few people realize that 26 percent of the UK's total carbon emissions come from motor vehicles and 28 percent from our homes so ultimately it is down

to everyone-you and me-to help make a difference."

This UK organization has revealed the fact that advocates try to avoid. A major burden will be imposed on homeowners and motorists to reduce emissions.

How is this to be accomplished? The study focuses on homes and other structures because "the average home is responsible for more ...emissions than the average car produces every year." This focus makes sense since fuel prices in the UK are more than double today's high gasoline prices in the US and the government imposes about a $10 daily tax to drive into London.

For homeowners, the study lays out a series of actions they should (actually must) take. These include buying more energy efficient appliances, choosing high efficiency heating systems, adding more insulation, buying double or triple glazed windows, adding hot water heater insulation, using energy efficient light bulbs, turning to solar systems and turning down thermostats. Most of these actions have one thing in common. They are not cheap. Driving up the cost of homes means that fewer people can afford them.

The study paints a rosy picture of this home of the future but conveniently omits cost. But, it doesn't omit the seriousness of their intent. Homes and other structures are to be made virtually leak proof, with consequences for those that are not.

"The tiny amount of heat which leaks out into the outside world could be picked up on a satellite...monitoring any waste from homes.... If you leak too much heat it sends a message to the local energy office and they'll send you a bill for harming the environment."

This study and the mindset behind it clearly mean concentrating more power in the hands of ruling elites at the expense of personal freedom. Senator Kerry has never said as much but he does admire Europeans and that is how they govern.

Big John as President might well morph into Big Brother with an army of energy police and tax collectors. Re-engaging in Kyoto, under a Kerry Administration, would involve finding common ground with our alliance partners in the EU. It was this kind of collaboration that led to the Kyoto Protocol in the first place, so inevitably re-engagement will lead to more government control, higher costs, and less personal freedom.

Bill O'Keefe is President of Solutions Consulting, Inc. He has also served as Senior Vice President of Jellinek, Schwartz and Conolly, Inc., Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the American Petroleum Institute and Chief Administrative Officer of the Center for Naval Analyses.


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