Energy & Environment

Unions, Citing Jobless Concerns, Oppose Kyoto-Style Legislation

Is the Lieberman-McCain climate change bill a good idea? Union members certainly don’t think so. On September 9, a coalition called ‘Unions for Jobs and the Environment’ (UJAE) circulated a letter in opposition to S. 139, the Climate Stewardship Act of 2003. The Teamsters, Boilermakers, Electrical Workers, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, the Utility Workers Union, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the United Transportation Union, the Transportation and Communications International Union, the United Mine Workers, and Marine Engineers all urged senators to vote against the bill, denouncing it as “a bad idea.”

Along with pointing out that there are no “off-the-shelf technologies to reduce CO2 emissions,” the UJAE said passing S. 139 would be “tantamount to adoption of the Kyoto Protocol”–a treaty, the unions note, that was officially rejected by the AFL-CIO in 1997–because it would cost “American jobs and economic opportunity.”

“It is vital to the health of the U.S. economy,” the unions wrote, “that the diversity of fuel use be maintained. Currently, most electricity is generated with coal, followed by nuclear, natural gas, and hydro.

“We are concerned that the burden created by S. 139 would fall disproportionately on coal, thereby making the economy more dependent on other fuels, particularly natural gas–a commodity experiencing substantial price escalations. Viewed in this context, S. 139 is simply a bad idea.”

It should also be noted that, in addition to its devastating economic impact, Lieberman-McCain would do nothing for the environment. Just look at Kyoto, which is more far-reaching than Lieberman-McCain. Altero Matteoli, Italy’s minister for the environment and territory, said on July 7 that, “Within the framework of [Kyoto], we will manage to reach a 2 percent reduction in emissions at best, but we all know that we need to halve greenhouse emissions world-wide by 2050 in order to prevent further damage to climate.”

Now, even if one concedes that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are the overwhelming causes of global warming, according to Matteoli, the world would have to reduce emissions by 50 percent to have any effect. Put another way, the world would need 25 Kyotos (or a lot more Lieberman-McCains) to reduce temperatures to an acceptable level (whatever that may be). The Energy Information Administration said one Kyoto would cost the U.S. economy $400 billion annually. Even using (at a minimum) a linear calculation–which is dubious–that’s a lot of money for nothing.


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