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Global Reaction: Environmentalists Blast U.S. Energy Plans
Published on Friday, May 18, 2001 by Reuters
Global Reaction
Environmentalists Blast U.S. Energy Plans
 
LONDON/SYDNEY - International environmental groups slammed plans unveiled by President Bush to tackle a U.S. energy crisis as disastrous and ``a crime,'' saying they would distance Washington from the rest of the world.


The U.S. administration will face protests at home and across the world if it ever tries to put this plan into action.

Friends of the Earth
Bush to Planet Earth: Drop Dead
But while Pacific islanders repeated fears that global warming will raise sea levels and obliterate their homes, Japanese policy makers, long struggling to promote nuclear energy in the face of public mistrust, welcomed the blueprint.

Bush laid out his plan of attack on Thursday against ``the most serious energy shortage'' since the 1970s, calling for heavier reliance on oil, coal and nuclear power, and $10 billion in tax credits for conservation measures.

Environmentalists in Asia expressed horror on Friday at the proposals, echoing concerns voiced by counterparts in Europe.

``We are all environmental criminals. But there must be a new category for the United States. I would like to see an international justice system that would recognize this crime,'' said Patrina Dumaru, climate officer for the Fiji-based Pacific Concerns Resources Centre.

Australian Greens leader Senator Bob Brown echoed Friends of the Earth in accusing Bush of a handout to oil interests.

``He's come up with a combination of Exxon Valdez and Chernobyl,'' said Brown, referring to the 1989 tanker oil spill off Alaska and the Ukraine nuclear plant disaster 15 years ago.

Greenpeace described the conservation measures on Thursday as ''window dressing'' and fellow campaigners Friends of the Earth were particularly scathing about the plans for increasing nuclear power and opening an Alaskan wildlife refuge to oil and gas exploration.

Charles Secrett, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth in Britain, warned the plan ``threatening a new generation of nuclear power stations, destruction of the Alaskan wilderness and other environmentally disastrous proposals will distance the United States even further from the main strain of environmental concern across the rest of the planet.''

The long-awaited report on national energy policy was developed by a task force led by Vice President Dick Cheney and presented by Bush during a speech to local business leaders in St. Paul, Minnesota. As he spoke, hundreds of activists protested outside.

In the face of rolling power blackouts across the state of California and increasing shortages, Bush said the plan was an answer to a call for action.

``If we fail to act, we could face a darker future, a future that is unfortunately being previewed in rising prices at the gas pump and rolling blackouts in California,'' Bush said.

Initial international reaction to the U.S. plans from most governments was quiet, but Jan Pronk, head of the U.N. forum on climate change, on Thursday dubbed it a ``disastrous development'' for international efforts to slow output of greenhouse gases.

Pronk, also the Dutch environment minister, told Dutch television the Bush plan would ``undoubtedly'' lead to increased output of carbon dioxide, although he still awaited proposals from the world's biggest polluter on how to cut emissions.

``In terms of the possibility of forming an integrated policy (to cut emissions), this is a disastrous development,'' he said.

GLOBAL WARMING

Greenpeace said the call to increase fossil fuels use ran counter to efforts in other industrialized states to reduce the output of so-called greenhouse gases.

A United Nation's scientific body has said greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuels, will contribute to warming of the earth's surface. That in turn will lead to higher ocean levels, dramatic changes in weather patterns and greater frequency of severe storms.

``This plan is going to substantially increase U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at a time when most of the industrialized countries are trying to reduce them,'' Greenpeace climate policy director Bill Hare told Reuters.

Among the most vulnerable to climate change, a group representing Pacific islanders complained on Friday the region's concerns were being ignored, even though some of its tiny, low-lying nations faced obliteration if sea levels rose too far.

``If the worst comes to the worst, if it comes to the crunch in climate change, some communities and cultures here will cease to exist. It's totally unjust,'' said Dumaru of the Fiji-based Pacific Concerns Resources Centre, a regional umbrella group for non governmental organizations.

In a sign that some other European allies have been angered by U.S. policies affecting the environment, Bush's top economic adviser Glenn Hubbard was lambasted at a meeting of industrialized nations in Paris on Thursday for rejecting the Kyoto protocol on global warming.

The Kyoto accord commits developed countries to a five percent cut of greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

French Finance Minister Laurent Fabius was adamant that the U.S. rejection of Kyoto in March could damage Kyoto's success. ''The U.S. withdrawal from the Kyoto protocol endangers the entire process,'' Fabius said.

Japanese government and industry officials welcomed Bush's long-term energy proposals.

``We are greatly encouraged by the fact that a nation that plays a key role in the direction world energy policy takes has shifted to backing nuclear power,'' said a spokesman for Japan's government-backed Federation of Electric Power Companies.

Japan operates 51 commercial nuclear reactors, which together supply about a third of the nation's electric power. The industry, however, has come under criticism for a series of accidents, most notably the nation's worst in September 1999.

Friends of the Earth, in a statement headlined ``Bush to Planet Earth: Drop Dead,'' warned: ``The U.S. administration will face protests at home and across the world if it ever tries to put this plan into action.''

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited

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