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USA: Bush to Say No to Clean Energy in Genoa

by Joseph KahnNew York Times
July 14th, 2001

WASHINGTON, July 13 -- The Bush administration plans to oppose an international drive to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and increase financing for nonpolluting energy sources worldwide, administration officials said today.

The proposals are contained in a report commissioned by the Group of 8 industrial nations, which will hold its annual summit meeting in Genoa, Italy, next week. The proposals would commit rich nations to help one billion people around the world get their power from renewable energy sources, like wind, water and the sun.

The White House says its opposition to the proposals is based on a desire to let the marketplace, rather than government, decide how quickly renewable energy sources are adopted worldwide. But critics say it is yet another instance of the Bush administration's placing the interest of oil and gas companies ahead of the drive to reduce global warming.

That debate notwithstanding, the administration's decision -- along with objections today by Canadian officials, who also oppose elements of the report -- could prevent the G-8 from endorsing the proposals. The group usually works by consensus, and proposals are generally not adopted if any members object.

European leaders had hoped to use the summit meeting to jump-start talks on global warming and to salvage what they could of the Kyoto Protocol, the treaty to fight global warming, which the Bush administration also opposes. Some European officials and environmental groups viewed the report by the G-8 "task force" as a major rallying point.

A final draft copy of the report calls on rich nations to "remove incentives and other supports for environmentally harmful energy technologies." It also encourages them to shift the priorities of international lending agencies, like the World Bank, to support more clean energy projects in poor countries.

People who helped prepare the report said one important goal was to persuade wealthy nations to stop promoting fossil fuel projects in the developing world, a step that could reduce sales of power plants, pipelines, drilling equipment and other goods used in producing energy from oil and coal. The effort is directly related to fighting global warming.

The task force recommended that the G-8 nations use their public financing leverage with national and international lending institutions to support more clean energy projects.

A Bush administration official said the United States did not support the report even though the high-profile task force rewrote it to reflect some American objections.

The task force included a number of government officials as well as leaders of multinational businesses and environmental groups. Co-chairmen of the group were Corado Clini, Italy's top environmental official, and Mark Moody Stuart, chairman of the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell.

A draft copy of the report was provided to The New York Times by people who support its goals and who want to call attention to the administration's opposition.

While the administration supports the idea of expanding use of renewable energy sources, it does not favor the task force's emphasis on government-to-government financing, the administration official said. He said the goal of having one billion people rely on clean energy sources within a decade was a target that had "no analytical basis."

"While we are committed to expanding the use of renewables, there was a sense that this task force was more focused on government funding -- throwing money at the problem," the official said. "We are more interested in looking at how to leverage private sector efforts."

He said the final communiqu of the summit meeting next week was likely to include language that supports the spread of clean energy even if the report is not endorsed.

President Bush announced in the spring that the United States had no intention of meeting targets set in the Kyoto treaty.

"By rejecting the task force's recommendations, President Bush is once again undermining any attempt to take serious action on global warming," said Daphne Wysham, a fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington.

The institute and Friends of the Earth, an environmental organization, did a study that found that the export promotion agencies of rich nations, like the Export-Import Bank of the United States, are the world's largest public backers of fossil fuels, the main causes of global warming. The credit agencies supported $115 billion in such projects in the five years through 1999, the study said.

"About two billion people on this planet are not served by electricity, and the most cost effective approach for them is often solar or biomass, not fossil fuels," said Dan Reicher, who served on the G-8 task force as a Clinton administration official. "But it takes real targets -- numerical goals -- if we are going to make a difference."

The Bush administration official said he considered the task force's emphasis on nonpolluting energy for the developing world as lopsided. He said that as poor nations grow, they will need traditional energy sources as well as renewables.

"There is not just one solution to the energy demands of growing and developing economies," he said.

Among the goals embraced in the final report are several targets for improving or expanding the use of renewable energy. It says the G-8 should aim to help 200 million poor people worldwide use biomass energy sources, like natural and human waste products, to fuel fires for cooking. It also suggests that clean energy sources could eventually provide electricity to 300 million people who do not have electricity today and 500 million more who are connected to an existing grid.

The executive summary of the report did not say how many people are now served by renewable energy sources, which includes hydropower. But it called its goals "ambitious."

Bush administration officials decided early on that they could not support key elements of the task force's work, according to people who took part in the task force efforts. At a key meeting to discuss an early draft of the report, held in Japan in March, an administration official rejected an early draft of the report and submitted a new executive summary prepared in Washington, the people involved said.

The task force incorporated some of the administration's views and watered down language concerning numerical goals, the participants said. But it did not accept all of the changes proposed by Washington, and the administration declined to support the final draft.





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