True Green Policies To Be Safe From Kyoto

April 26, 2002
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As of this writing most of the mainstream media were blaming all the usual suspects (major corporations and greed) for Japan's decision to opt out of the Kyoto Protcol to regulate global climate by restricting energy use.

Similar stories are beginning to emerge from Canada and New Zealand. And if you do some digging and sifting on the Internet, you learn Germany's government is experiencing a crisis over the same issue.

The Germany economic minister opines that his country can't afford to meet Kyoto's mandates — particularly the 40 percent carbon dioxide emissions reduction — without resorting to nuclear energy. And that is utterly unacceptable to the Green Party part of the government coalition.

We couldn't be happier that the hard realities of environmental economics are starting to make themselves felt. They're beginning to show the Kyoto Protocol for what it was: a political creation, not an environmental agreement.

On the face of it, the Kyoto Protocol is as obstinately dense as the old EPA regulation that set out to punish West Michigan motorists for industrial and automotive pollution blown here on the prevailing winds from the Chicago megalopolis. Remember? It was a partisan attack by then-Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., against then-Congressman Guy VanderJagt, R-Mich. It mandated tailpipe testing of all West Michigan autos and mandatory retrofitting — at owner expense — on vehicles that failed to meet EPA standards. Fortunately, Gov. Engler and a change in presidency put the issue to bed.

But the bottom line was: Would those retrofits have improved West Michigan air quality? Not a whit. The pollution was coming here from Chicago. And what was EPA's subsequent solution to pollution in Chicago? It was to ignore modern fuel technology and to mandate use of extremely expensive boutique gasoline that use ethanol from (remember?) Iowa corn.

Now on the face of it, the Kyoto Protocol's demand for a 40 percent reduction of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide sounded like a good idea. But "sounded like" is the operative phrase. For starters, Kyoto didn't apply regulations uniformly. Third-world countries would be exempt, so its impact would burden the industrialized world while encouraging investment in "dirty" technology in the third world.

And like so many of EPA's sappy regulations, the Kyoto Protocol made no scientific sense. It mandated for 40 percent carbon dioxide reduction. But there is no scientific consensus about whether humanity actually influences earth's climate. It ignored a widening scientific recognition that higher CO2 levels have improved crop production. It gave countries such as Canada, New Zealand and the United States no "sink" credits for the enormous amounts of CO2 that their carefully nurtured forests consume. Finally, it did not honor the concern that a 40 percent reduction in CO2 admissions would so punish the consumer economy that the third world might sustain economic disaster.

It's hard to blame the Japanese for their stance. Their industrial production has fallen to a 14-year low. Neither they, nor we, needed Kyoto, which would have had the effect of a massive tax — putting us at a competitive disadvantage with the European Union. We don't need recession to turn into depression.

Do we need to protect the environment? You bet.

Do we need to relax regulations for the use and transportation of toxins? No way.

What spaceship earth needs is the combination of regulation and corporate creativity that we have seen work so successfully in West Michigan. Tax incentives rather than taxation spurs such creativity. That creativity has resulted again and again in so many local stories wherein CEOs and presidents have said, "Our goal is not to meet regulations, but to eliminate pollution — all of it."

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