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Kyoto and the End of Hot Air

The Kyoto Protocols have gone into effect which is, believe it or not, good for everybody.

11:00 PM, Feb 21, 2005 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
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Start with the proposal by researchers at Resources for the Future, a widely respected, non-partisan Washington think tank. They suggest that the United States adopt a "cap-and-trade" system like that now operating in the European Union, but include a "safety valve" that limits the price emissions permits will be allowed to reach. Greens who would oppose such a cost limit would be hard-pressed to continue claiming that reducing emissions won't be costly, while critics who claim that reducing greenhouse gasses would be ruinously expensive would be defanged.

The president, who has expressed a desire to "work together" with the European Union on environmental issues, might also be persuaded to encourage other companies to join the U.S. firms (among them Ford, DuPont, and four electric utilities) who have voluntarily agreed to reduce their 2006 GHG emissions to 4 percent below their 1998-2001 average, and will be allowed to sell or bank any surplus emission allowances.

If the Europeans can then be convinced that such an alternative to Kyoto represents an adequate contribution towards their goal of reining in GHG emissions, the United States and the European Union could unite and turn to the more difficult task of developing incentives for India, China, and other developing countries to adopt emission control programs that do not stifle their economic growth circumstances.

Irwin M. Stelzer is director of economic policy studies at the Hudson Institute, a columnist for the Sunday Times (London), a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard, and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard.