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Editorial | Rejecting Kyoto

Going it alone

And then there was one.

With new Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's announcement yesterday that his country will ratify the Kyoto agreement, the United States became the only major industrialized nation that refuses to sign the protocol limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

The Bush administration has insisted that the Kyoto accords, which went into effect in 2005, would unreasonably limit this nation's ability to address climate change in ways that recognize its specific environmental and economic concerns.

But the inability of the United States to craft a comprehensive domestic energy policy that would reduce its reliance on fossil fuels hardly engenders optimism in Bush's we'll-go-solo approach.

Americans concerned about high gasoline prices must hope that more can be accomplished to reduce our dependence on foreign oil with energy legislation trying to fight its way through Congress.

A big step was taken late Friday when House Democrats negotiated an agreement on perhaps the most important element of a new energy bill - an update of rules requiring automakers to make more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Rep. John Dingell (D., Mich.) had argued that more stringent CAFE standards would harm the auto industry that is so vital to his home state. But he relented in exchange for job guarantees and other incentives sought by Detroit.

The House bill would mandate new cars and light trucks to average 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Current law will require new cars to average 27.5 m.p.g. next year; light trucks, 22.5 m.p.g..

A full House vote on what could become the first increase in CAFE standards in 32 years may come as early as Wednesday. But Republican opposition is strong in both houses of Congress, so its ultimate fate is far from assured.

Especially with Bush threatening to whip out his veto stamp.

Beyond CAFE standards, Congress must consider how far to go in moving the nation to renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and hydroelectric power. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted standards requiring the generation of more electricity from these cleaner sources, but Congress has hesitated to take that route.

The House bill would require utilities to produce 15 percent of their electricity from such sources by 2020. As they consider the legislation, members of Congress from this area must be mindful of public sentiment in New Jersey and Pennsylvania for stronger energy policies such as this.

Both states were recently awarded stars by the Environment America advocacy group for being bold in addressing energy issues. Effective energy policy, however, shouldn't be piecemeal. While it's good to see these states and others acting in the absence of better federal policy, it's time for Congress to take the right steps.