NOVEMBER 10, 1997
Return to this forum's introduction.
Questions answered in this forum:
Can the science behind global warming predictions be trusted? Can an effective program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions be created? Should there be a tax on gas-guzzling vehicles? Could nuclear power reduce America's greenhouse gas emissions? Can a system of emissions credits reduce America's production of greenhouse gases? Should developing countries be included in a global climate treaty? Viewer comments
October 22, 1997:
A discussion of President Clinton's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
June 25, 1997:
President Clinton is backing the EPA's push for tougher air quality standards, but critics say they're too costly.
February 18, 1997:
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new clean air standardsthat have been criticized by some industry, state and local officials.
March 6, 1997:
The fastest rise in temperature for perhaps ten thousand years is having a dramatic effect on the brittle ecosystem of Antarctica.
January 4, 1996
British meteorologists report that the Earth's surface temperature was higher than the average in 1995.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of science and the environment.
EPA Web site on global warming
Environmental Defense Fund
Jeff Roseman of Central, SC, asks:
Skillful marketing and consumer desires for large, heavy, and high horsepower vehicles have largely undermined progress in automobile fuel efficiency. Question: What can be done, in the near term, to change this? Is a gasoline tax a viable approach? (Could revenues from gasoline tax be earmarked for federal debt reduction, to make it politically acceptable?)
Carl Pope of the Sierra Club responds:
Consumers don't take operating costs fully into account in buying cars. The most economically and environmentally efficient package would combine tougher fuel economy standards for Detroit, gas guzzler taxes on very inefficient vehicles, a change in federal depreciation rules which encourage businesses to buy vans instead of sedans, and higher gax taxes to discourage increases in vehicle miles travelled per vehicle. Much of the proceeds from these measures could be invested in more rapidly depreciating domestic auto production lines and putting more efficient technology in place, so auto consumers as a whole could be held whole.
Dr. Michael Oppenheimer of the Environmental Defense Fund responds:
Gasoline taxes of sufficient size would work, but are very unpopular so are unlikely to attract the kind of political leadership required. Tightening motor vehicle fuel economy (CAFE) standards would work and may be more feasible. A third approach, called emissions trading, would limit carbon dioxide from all sources in the economy and allow trading of allowances to achieve an economically-efficient result. In the processes, auto manufacturers would probably choose to increase efficiency.
Karen Karrigen of the Global Climate Information Project responds:
Consumer NEED has largely driven (no pun intended) the purchase of larger and high horsepower vehicles. The automobile purchase is generally the second biggest purchase for most families (following the home) and while many car marketing executives would beam at your "skillful marketing" reference -- this is just not the case. The restrictions of CAFE standards (which made the family sized, full-sized station wagon extinct) have caused the upsurge in consumers buying mini-vans and other light-weight trucks because they need this capacity for hauling and towing things whether you have a family, own a small business or are both -- fuel efficient small cars do not make it.
Please do not confuse the issue of global warming with harmful tailpipe emissions (a clean air issue in which harmful emissions have been cut by 98%). While global warming proponents do support higher taxes on fuel to discourage fuel consumption, taxes in the range of 50 cents a gallon is not viable. I would argue that any tax increase at this point is not viable. On a more positive note, we agree with the Administration that getting more fuel efficiency in today's average size car can be solved through technology. But we don't need a global climate treaty to accomplish that.
Next: could nuclear power reduce America's greenhouse gas emissions?