(May 24, 2007)

Dip in US emissions against the trend

By Timothy Gardner
From Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - President George W. Bush said his voluntary plan to cut greenhouse gases is on track, citing a 2006 dip in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, but environmentalists say the change is a temporary blip that goes against an overall trend.

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels dropped 1.3 percent last year, the Energy Information Administration said late on Wednesday, the third time in 16 years that these emissions fell. Total U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have grown 17.9 percent since 1990.

Bush, who opposes mandatory caps on emissions, said in a statement on Wednesday night that this report puts his program for reducing greenhouse gas intensity -- the amount of emissions per unit of economic growth -- "well ahead of what is needed" to meet the White House goal of cutting this figure by 18 percent by 2012.

His comments came ahead of a Group of Eight meeting in June where rich countries are expected to discuss global warming.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has signaled she will urge the G8 to slash greenhouse emissions that spur global climate change.

However, the United States rejects key targets and timetables for combating global warming, including a pledge to halve emissions by 2050, and wants to cut these ideas from a draft summit communique seen by Reuters.


Scientists say greenhouse gas emissions could bring deadly heat waves, flooding and droughts.

The 2006 dip in emissions may have been caused more by unpredictable events like weather than by intentional efforts to curb carbon dioxide, the EIA report said.

Moderate U.S. winter temperatures and relatively moderate prices for clean-burning natural gas helped cut the emissions, according to the report.

Warm weather "ain't a good strategy to rely on as your way to reduce emissions," Dan Becker, the head of the Sierra Club's climate program, said in a telephone interview.

David Doniger, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate center, said reducing greenhouse gas intensity is not a good goal. It would fall even if the government took no action because industries have become more energy-efficient since the high oil prices of the 1970s, he said.

"If we just keep playing up this voluntary approach, where the only things being done are weather changes or economic fuel price changes, you might see an occasional year where emissions go down. But the overall trend is going to be up, up, up," said Doniger.

Rep. Edward Markey, who heads the U.S. House of Representatives committee on energy independence and global warming, agreed. "We need mighty efforts, not minuscule ones like we are seeing from this administration," the Massachusetts Democrat said in a statement on Thursday.

(Additional reporting by Deborah Zabarenko in Washington)

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