President Bush broke a campaign promise Tuesday telling Congress he would not seek to impose mandatory emissions reductions for carbon dioxide at electrical power plants.
His move after heavy lobbying by big-business interests angered environmentalists who are concerned about the consequences of global warming.
"By failing to curb carbon dioxide, President Bush is betraying his pledge to the American people and taking a dive on a crisis with disastrous consequences," said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. "During the campaign, Bush tried to claim an environmental mantle, but in the White House he''s bowing to big business instead of honoring this commitment to our children."
On the campaign trail in September, then-Gov. Bush promised "mandatory reduction targets for emissions of four main pollutants," including carbon dioxide.
In recent weeks, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman spoke out in support of Bush''s campaign position, igniting the ire of business lobbyists.
Tuesday, Bush reversed his position in a letter to Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., promising to reduce only three air pollutants.
Hagel and three fellow Republicans -- Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas and Sen. Frank Murkowski of Alaska -- sent Bush a letter a week ago asking him to spell out his position after hearing conflicting information from EPA on what Bush intended to do.
In his letter, Bush outlined why he was shifting position.
He said he feared caps on carbon dioxide emission, produced by the burning of coal and other fossil fuels, would lead to higher energy prices at a time when they are already increasing across the country, and after the shortages in California.
He pointed to a recently released Department of Energy report that said including caps on carbon dioxide emissions "would lead to an even more dramatic shift from coal to natural gas for electric power generation and significantly higher electricity prices."
Bush also cited the "incomplete state of scientific knowledge of the causes of, and solutions to, global climate change and the lack of commercially available technologies for removing and storing carbon dioxide."
The great majority of research into global warming suggests greenhouse gases are a cause.
A coalition of 13 environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, last Friday called on Bush to fulfill his pledge to clean up pollution generated by power plants.
"When big business banged on the White House door, President Bush made a policy U-turn that will haunt our children," said Pope. "American is already experiencing the kinds of global warming catastrophes scientists have warned us about, such as heat waves, droughts, coastal flooding and malaria outbreaks."
White House spokesman Ari Fleisher said Bush was on record as being concerned about the impact of global warming "but he does believe we have to research more fully what the causes are so we can know what the solutions are."
by Virginia Sutcliffe