Business Group Criticizes Bush's Energy Ideas President Bush is expected to make big promises Tuesday in his State of the Union address about conserving energy and breaking America's oil addiction. But business leaders and environmental groups say the Bush approach isn't likely to be tough enough.
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Business Group Criticizes Bush's Energy Ideas

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Business Group Criticizes Bush's Energy Ideas

Business Group Criticizes Bush's Energy Ideas

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Turning to energy now, during last year's State of the Union, President Bush made this blunt pronouncement. America is addicted to oil. The president has in fact proposed ways to get cheaper, cleaner energy and get it closer to home in each of his State of the Union addresses. His speech tomorrow will do the same. However, this time, there's more pressure to also do more to curb global warming.

NPR's Christopher Joyce reports.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE: Energy independence has been on the presidential wish list since Jimmy Carter. Yet Americans import more oil than ever. Cars are no more fuel-efficient than they were 17 years ago.

So President Bush is expected to address the addiction again tomorrow. One thing he may call for is more ethanol. That's the corn-based fuel that currently makes up about 3 percent of our U.S. gasoline needs.

But there remains the looming question of climate change. Burning fossil fuels like coal and oil create carbon dioxide, and carbon dioxide rises into the atmosphere and warms the planet. The president has said Americans should invent new technology and voluntarily find ways to cut back on CO2.

That has put the president at odds with environmentalists and now, quite a few business leaders. A group of them called the U.S. Climate Action Partnership today declared that inventing new technology is not enough.

PETER DARBEE: The best way to stimulate greater use of existing clean-air technologies is to establish a market value for carbon.

JOYCE: That's Peter Darbee, head of the big California utility company PG&E. A market value would essentially be a tax on every pound or ton of carbon that goes up into the atmosphere. The group says they want what's called a cap and trade system. That would be a ceiling on how much carbon dioxide businesses can emit. Companies get a quota. Those that emit less than their quota get to sell the difference in carbon units to companies that cannot make their quota.

And according to Jim Rogers, head of Duke Energy in North Carolina, carbon limits should not be voluntary.

JIM ROGERS: We need a program flexible enough to cope with the economic and technical challenges ahead, but it must be mandatory.

JOYCE: Mandatory limits on carbon, an idea verboten so far in the White House. But just to be sure the climate group's message was clear, Fred Krupp of Environmental Defense said it again.

FRED KRUPP: We recommend that Congress establish a mandatory emissions reduction plan that has specific targets.

JOYCE: Now what the Bush administration has pushed hard instead is research on new technology for limiting carbon. For example, carbon sequestration. That's essentially pumping it into the ground, where it's supposed to stay put for centuries.

Climate group member Jeffrey Sterba, head of the energy company PNM Resources, said that technology is only a distant promise at the moment.

JEFFREY STERBA: We need to ensure that we can capture it and store it. And those are a couple of very easy words, but not easy to do.

JOYCE: If President Bush pushes for something more on climate, he will be playing to an expectant audience. The climate group that spoke today represents numerous business interests. And since the Democrats took leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives, they and Republican colleagues have introduced several bills to force limits on carbon emissions. And Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi from California is making plans to create a special panel to do nothing but debate climate change.

Christopher Joyce, NPR News.

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