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US ambassador to the EU on global warming, Kyoto and energy policy

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US ambassador to the EU on global warming, Kyoto and energy policy

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As the world’s top scientists issued the strongest warnings yet about the threat from climate change, EuroNews has been talking to the US ambassador to the European Union, C. Boyden Gray, about his country’s attitude to global warming.

The United States – which is the world’s largest energy user – is being urged to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases and President Bush in his recent State of the Union address outlined proposals for reducing its dependence on imported energy.

Sergio Cantone, Brussels Correspondent, EuroNews:
“Ambassador, welcome to EuroNews, first of all, President Bush announced the idea, the initiative of taking some important steps in order to curb global warming. What does this initiative consist of?”

C. Boyden Gray, US Ambassador to the EU:
“Well, the principal piece that he announced in the State of the Union has to do with dramatically increasing bio fuel use in our gasoline pool; in other words displacing 20 per cent within the next 10 or 15 years, with bio fuels. Which would be a big improvement both for energy security and for CO2 reduction. This follows, and actually strengthens, an initiative by Governor Schwarzenegger in California to do something similar and that is ambitious.”

EuroNews:
“What was wrong with Kyoto?”

C. Boyden Gray:
“Well, the principal problem we had was political, where our Senate voted – with all the Democrats joining – unanimously against the treaty. Now, why did that happen in 1997-98? Because we are not including – the world is not including – China and India. They must be included in order for a trading regime to work. Because, if they are not included, we raise costs for our manufacturing sector and the manufacturing sector just moves to China where there are no controls. Europe is now facing this and that is why there is so much resistance to the Brussels allocation scheme for the credits in the European emissions trading system. Same problem: the European utilities say that if they raise prices to their customers, their customers will simply go to India or China.”

EuroNews:
“The US is apparently reluctant to implement binding measures in order to curb the CO2 emissions. Is that true?”

C. Boyden Gray:
“We are putting billions – and we are the only country in the world that is doing this – putting billions into the research to find the answers. But in terms of binding measures, what the President announced at the State of the Union will be binding. We will require the oil companies to blend these alternative fuels. That will be binding. What we did not join up to was a cap and trade system. Because it won’t work without India and China. It will just simply leak, everything leaks to India and China. We are already suffering from transport of pollution from China into California. One 5th of our California’s pollution is shipped from China. We don’t want to ship more industry to China to ship more pollution back to us.”

EuroNews:
“What do you think about the CO2 quotas trade emission scheme of the European Union?”

C. Boyden Gray:
“Well, it has got a couple of problems. It does not include the transportation sector which is the fastest growing segment of EU carbon emissions.”

EuroNews:
“And what about a carbon tax?”

C. Boyden Gray:
“That’s not a bad idea, but it is not as good as cap and trade and the trouble is that in our country any taxes that will affect fuel cost are very, very politically suspect. It is just a political problem we have in our country. A cap and trade system – we did it for acid rain – it works like a charm, it has great and high acceptance in the United States, but when you talk about carbon, you have again to include China, which will inherit all our industry if we don’t put them on the same basis as we do to our own industry.”

EuroNews:
“But in the meanwhile, no concrete measure can be taken at least until 2009, when a new president will be in the White House.”

C. Boyden Gray:
“Well, I think what the President suggested in the State of the Union speech will be put into the legally binding measures. We have for example already in our energy policy act, 2 years ago, a binding requirement for 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol. And what the President is going to do is push that way, way up. It will be made binding. Congress of course has to agree, but it will be made legally binding.”

EuroNews:
“What about the idea that this is a sort of repositioning of President Bush after the defeat in the midterm election?”

C. Boyden Gray:
“Oh gosh, I don’t know. He made his big announcement about oil addiction a year ago in the State of the Union and in fact he has been on this issue for some years previously. I don’t think that’s an election conversion, he’s been doing this now consistently for quite some time. So, is he giving it a greater prominence? Well, the fact remains that this is an issue that is supported by the Democrats. So, it is a place (an area) where he can get something done with the Democratic majority in the Congress. That may explain some of the emphasis, but this is not a new issue for him.”