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Climate talks are on the rocks, but not dead yet

The hippest catwalk in Milan this week. Photo: IISD. Milan is famous for opera and fashion, so perhaps it's appropriate that the United Nations' Kyoto Protocol conference, being held in the Italian city this week and next, has so far been characterized by high drama and public spectacle. Some 180 negotiators from around the world have been treated to rumors of deliberate sabotage and shady backroom deals, derisive public statements about the treaty from leading U.S officials, and bogus news reports that Russia had dealt a fatal blow to the beleaguered pact (one such report was summarized in yesterday's Daily …

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The Kindest Cut

Companies Show that Cutting Emissions Can Improve Performance President Bush and many Republicans in Congress complain that restricting emissions of carbon dioxide would hobble the U.S. economy, but a growing number of companies are showing that cutting emissions can help the bottom line and they are pursuing reductions far greater than the voluntary ones proposed by Bush. Large aluminum producer Alcoa, for example, has cut its CO2 emission by more than 23.5 percent from 1990 levels, while at the same time increasing production. "We've had triple wins so far," said Alcoa's Randy Overbey. "It's helped our labor productivity, the environment, …

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Meeting His Waterloo?

House Tells Bush to Leave Clean Water Act Rules Alone More than half of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives last week told President Bush to back off from proposed changes that would reduce protections for wetlands and streams under the Clean Water Act. In a letter sent to Bush, 218 representatives, including 26 Republicans, asked the administration to abandon a rulemaking process started in January that would redefine which waters and wetlands are to be safeguarded by the federal government. "The Clean Water Act is a landmark piece of legislation which shouldn't be diluted," said Rep. Jim …

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I’m Just a Bill, and I’m Still Sitting Here on Capitol Hill

Energy Bill Is Doomed for This Year Republican Senate leaders threw in the towel on the big energy bill last night, admitting that they couldn't muster the two additional votes needed to pass the controversial legislative package before Congress takes its holiday recess. The failure to pass the bill this year represents a stinging defeat for President Bush, and a big success for environmentalists and anyone else opposed to $14.5 billion in tax breaks for fossil-fuel industries and increased oil and gas drilling on public lands. GOP leaders will try again next year; to make the bill more palatable to …

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The Few, the Proud, the Exempt

Defense Bill Will Exempt Military from Species-Protection Laws The U.S. military may be having trouble achieving its goals in Iraq, but at least it's getting what it wants on Capitol Hill: exemptions from key environmental laws. President Bush today is scheduled to sign a $401 billion defense authorization bill that includes provisions exempting the military from components of the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. After the bill becomes law, the Navy will be able to make broader use of low-frequency sonar, despite the fact that it is believed to cause serious harm to whales, dolphins, …

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Slope on a Rope

Bush Administration Opens Alaskan Land to Drilling Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge isn't on the oil-and-gas chopping block under the terms of the current behemoth energy bill, but the rest of the state isn't quite as lucky: The Bush administration will announce today that it plans to open 8.8 million acres of Alaska's North Slope to oil and gas development. The Interior Department says drilling in the area represents a sound compromise between energy needs and environmental protection, but environmentalists counter that the region includes ecologically sensitive areas that are important to migratory birds, whales, and other wildlife, and should …

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A breakdown of the Senate vote to end debate on the energy bill

A massive energy bill backed by the Bush administration stalled out in the Senate this morning, when its supporters failed to garner the necessary 60 votes to end debate on the legislation. Only 57 senators voted to halt debate; 40 voted to keep it going. Those in favor of the bill, which has already been passed by the House, say it would increase and diversify energy sources and help some farmers by encouraging the use of corn-based ethanol fuel. Opponents call it an expensive, environmentally unfriendly grab bag for special interests. Find out how your senators voted on the bill …

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Stall’s Well That Ends Well

Opponents Block Vote on Energy Bill in Senate A massive and highly controversial energy bill stalled out in the Senate this morning, when its supporters fell two short of the necessary 60 votes to end debate on the legislation. Those in favor of the bill, which has already been passed by the House, argue that it would increase and diversify energy sources and help some farmers by encouraging the use of corn-based ethanol fuel. Opponents, including six Republicans, most Democrats, and virtually all environmentalists, say it is environmentally unfriendly, too expensive (an estimated $33 billion over the next decade), and …

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How many international environmental treaties can one administration sabotage?

From just about anywhere you are on the planet, the city of Punta Arenas, Chile, is very, very far away. Perched on the banks of the Strait of Magellan, Punta Arenas is bounded on the north by the ice fields of Patagonia, a place that the combined forces of nature and the outdoor-gear industry have made synonymous with all things rugged and remote. To the south, on the other side of the strait, the Western Hemisphere peters off into the fractured islands of Tierra del Fuego; beyond that lies the Antarctic. And then there is another, newer landmark: For a …

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Do I Smell Bacon?

Congress Refuses to Interfere with California Clean-Air Regulations One trouble with pork-barrel politics: Sometimes your colleagues decide you're acting like a pig. That may be what happened yesterday, when congressional negotiators tossed out Sen. Kit Bond's (R-Mo.) spending-bill amendment, which would have prevented California from requiring catalytic converters on small engines, such as those found in lawn equipment. Bond's amendment, which was approved by the Senate before being axed by joint House-Senate negotiators, was basically a favor to one company, the small-engine manufacturer Briggs and Stratton, whose largest factories are located in the senator's home state. Apparently, the negotiators decided …

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