Should a global climate agreement hold the US to a higher environmental standard than the rest of th

Yes, the US should be held to a higher environmental standard than the rest of the world. We have benefited from a superior economic growth powered by consumption of a major share of the world's fossil fuels, causing a major share of the world's environmental pollution. We are technically equipped to lead toward a higher environmental standard. Currently, however, it would be a major challenge for the US to assume this leadership role.

We will have to wait for a new administration that, hopefully, will want this role for us. The Bush administration has continued to reject actions to reduce global warming pollution. It has refused to require cuts in heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution, significantly raise fuel economy requirements, or hold companies accountable for improving their energy efficiency using wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.

In his final FY2009 budget request, President Bush accurately reflected his administration's low priority for environmental help. Again, President Bush stripped critical funds protecting America's communities and natural resources, and instead rewarded dirty industries. All of this followed his State of the Union Address touting his commitment to advance clean, renewable resources and reduce dependence on oil. A quote from President Bush' speech on energy was "The United States is committed to strengthening our energy security and confronting global climate change.

And the best way to meet these goals is for America to continue leading the way toward the development of cleaner and more energy-efficient technology". Despite the president's more aggressive statements on fighting climate change, his budget request would reduce funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy such as wind, solar, etc. The president gets much of that reduction by slashing funding from $280 million to $60 million for low-income households to "weatherize" their homes with new windows, better insulation and other efforts. As a frame of reference, the Green Budget, which is used in Congress' budget deliberations, recommends a FY2009 Weatherizating budget of $300 million dollars.

On average, the Department of Energy has stated that weatherization reduces heating bills by 31 percent and overall energy bills by $358 per year. The total 2009 request for Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a major Department of Energy agency, is $1.255 billion, a 27 percent cut from the 2008 level of $1.722 billion. The Green Budget recommendation for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is $81 Billion Dollars. One would anticipate major differences between the President's requested budget and the suggested Green Budget, but one would suspect that the Green Budget is closer to our needs if we wish to assume a leadership role in environmental standards.

Climate change is the major issue within the Congress and should present a major showdown on the proposed energy budget. Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate are drafting major bills to reduce greenhouse gas emission through "cap and trade" systems. These bills would make billions of dollars to stimulate development of cleaner energy sources.

The major presidential contenders for the upcoming election, Democratic Senators Clinton and Obama and Republican Senator McCain, also support the "cap and trade" systems. In addition, Senator Clinton wants to tighten fuel economy standards more than Congress did last year so that an average vehicle will go 55 miles per gallon by 2030. Senator McCain sees nuclear power as a big part of the environmental pollution solution. Aggressive environmental leadership should emerge from the upcoming Presidential election.

However, it will take the strong and concerted efforts of the future President and Congress to move the USA to the forefront of environmental standards. There is a great watershed between the mainstream technologies that make up the modern energy industry and the newer "clean" technologies that offer an alternative, low carbon path to the future. This watershed encompasses costs, technology, maturity and scale of existing energy infrastructure. It is not enough to ask our new president to lead us into a new role of energy leadership. With today's known conditions, there are two immediate future major hurdles that will have to be overcome to continue to a leadership role. The first hurdle is the slowing of the US economy.

We suspect that the economy will slow and possibly go into recession in late 2008 and 2009. This poor economy could slow investments into renewable energies and postpone the momentum that the US currently has in adopting renewable energy. The second hurdle is congress' failure to renew energy-incentive tax credits that lapse at the end of 2008.

A new economic study by Navigant Consulting finds that over 116,000 US jobs and nearly $19 billion in US investments could be lost in just one year if energy tax credits are not renewed by Congress. It is a full agenda for a new President just to position the United States to account for and reduce its own environmental pollution. To achieve a leadership role would be a great accomplishment and one that I hope that we will witness.

I have a BS and MS in Metallurgical Engineering. Thirty six years spent in the development of semiconductors. Business experience in start up business plan. Currently, an oyster farmer and interested in helping the environment by deploying solar energy. Visit my Blog, http://environmentalhelp.typepad.com/ for continued information on renewable energy E Mail: p_calhoun@bellsouth.net

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