Bush's energy triumph

Posted: Jul 14, 2005 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Overshadowed by the London terrorist attack and largely ignored by inattentive news media, the declaration on global warming at the G-8 summit of industrialized nations sounded far more like George W. Bush than Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac. Prime Minister Blair failed in his attempted coup at Gleneagles in Scotland to bring his close friend President Bush into conformity on the Kyoto protocol.

 The British, French and Germans pushed hard for U.S. submission to binding carbon emission targets. To the amazement of the scientific community, Europe capitulated and backed away from immediate restraints on a growing American economy. Bush won agreement from the G-8 that the world should await further scientific conclusion rather than rush unwise decisions that could deflate economic growth and lose jobs.

 Together with the rout of pro-Kyoto forces in the U.S. Senate two weeks ago, the outcome at Gleneagles constitutes a major energy triumph for Bush when he had seemed headed for defeat. The week before Gleneagles, the president displayed the stubbornness that often confounds allies but is his greatest strength. In a speech at the Smithsonian, he said efforts to "oppose development and put the world on an energy diet" would condemn two billion people in the undeveloped world to poverty and disease.

 The totality of Bush's victory was cloaked by the outrageous rhetoric of French President Chirac, who claimed major U.S. concessions at Gleneagles. "We have noticed a shift in the American position," he declared, contending Bush has isolated his country in rejecting the Kyoto pact.

 But Chirac's claims are contradicted by what really happened in Scotland. U.S. negotiators there insisted on removal from the summit's communique language describing global warming as "an urgent threat to the world" requiring "immediate action." Also eliminated were references to melting glaciers and rising seas, plus an audacious effort by France to link Europe with pro-Kyoto U.S. cities and states (mainly California and New England).

 Chirac's pretensions may be explained by France's lead role behind the scenes at Gleneagles trying to beat down the U.S. position. "In earlier drafts of the communique," a Bush aide told me, "the French aggressively pushed for pseudo-scientific, alarmist language on climate change."

 Most surprising was what did get in the Gleneagles communique. It conceded that "uncertainties remain in our understanding of climate science," rejecting the environmentalist dogma of "settled science" about global warming. The G-8 summit's public conclusion in favor of stopping and slowing the growth of greenhouse gases "as the science justifies" lifts Bush's language verbatim from 2002.

 Bush's lone "concession" was a line in the communique that use of fossil fuels is "associated with the warming of our Earth's surfaces." This, too, echoes past statements by Bush. "That's really a trivial concession," a White House source told me.

 In the aftermath of the G-8, Blair did not emulate Chirac's absurd claims of victory at Gleneagles and, in fact, had little to say publicly about global warming. Less than a month earlier on his visit to Washington, the British leader was preparing his last chance to get Bush's reversal on Kyoto. Given Blair's steadfast support of Bush on Iraq, the White House had to swallow its indignation that the prime minister was secretly lobbying U.S. senators.

 Blair hoped that the Senate in late June would repudiate Bush on global warming for the first time, creating a momentum for Kyoto at the G-8 summit. Just the opposite occurred. The McCain-Lieberman bill actually lost ground; a nuclear energy provision added to attract conservatives lost four liberal Democratic senators. Sen. Pete Domenici, the Energy Committee chairman, withdrew support from an alternative proposal when a headcount showed 52 senators opposed. A non-binding resolution by Sen. John Kerry urging international negotiations on global warming had passed two years ago but was defeated this time.

 All that passed in the Senate June 22 was a non-binding resolution, carried with 53 votes, that cautiously called for "market-based" limits on greenhouse gases that "will not significantly harm the United States economy." For his first term and a half, Bush will have held the line against the global warming hysteria and even got his G-8 colleagues to go along with him.