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GAO Finds White House Climate Change Proposal Incomplete; Policymakers/Observers Urge Administration

WASHINGTON—The Clinton Administration's Climate Change proposal "lacks a quantitative goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, does not have a specific performance plan and contains incomplete information on expected outcomes and links to the Kyoto Protocol's targets," according to the preliminary findings of a U.S. General Accounting Office report presented on June 4, 1998 to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

To comply with the Kyoto Protocol, the United States will need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions substantially—by about 31 percent by 2010—according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The president's three-stage proposal on climate change includes a fiscal year 1999 budget request to increase spending for climate change initiatives by $6.3 billion. As a part of this process, Sens. Larry Craig (R-ID), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Jesse Helms (R-NC) and Frank Murkowski (R-AK) asked GAO to evaluate the Clinton Administration's current proposal.

"The administration has several broad goals for what it wants to accomplish in stage 1 and a broad plan for accomplishing them … However, the administration has not established a quantitative goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the end of stage 1," said Victor Rezendes, GAO director of Energy, Resources and Science Issues. "Furthermore, they [Office of Management and Budget officials] have no specific time frame for preparing a more detailed plan that would include overall performance goals and measures to meet the spirit of the Government Performance and Results Act."

The United States will find it difficult to attain such dramatic reductions—unless it continues to rely on, and even increases its use of emission-free nuclear energy.

America's nuclear energy plants are responsible for 90 percent of all emissions reductions by electric utilities since 1973. To date, however, neither President Bill Clinton nor Vice President Al Gore has specifically included a significant role for nuclear energy in the administration's strategy to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

"Since 1973, nuclear energy has done more to prevent harmful atmospheric emissions than any other source of electricity. As our second largest source of electricity, emission-free nuclear energy is the linchpin to achieving the nation's energy security and environmental goals," said Joe F. Colvin, president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute. "Yet, the Administration has failed to come to grips with the few institutional issues that will ensure nuclear energy will remain a viable part of our nation's energy mix."

Senator Frank Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee denounced the administration's climate change proposal because it lacks specific information about how the United States will meet its emissions reduction goals. Murkowski also criticized the administration for failing to recognize the nation's two largest sources of emissions-free electricity: nuclear power and hydro, which provide approximately 20 and 10 percent of America's electricity respectively.

"In a twist of internally inconsistent logic that defies explanation, the President threatens to veto our nuclear waste disposal bill," Murkowski said. "Growth in nuclear power is the most realistic option if you want to do something about emissions."

Senator Rod Grams (R-MN) added, "There's no plan by this administration to expand the use of nuclear power. This is a joke. And, if you don't attend to the nuclear waste problem, you can't extend the lives of these power plants no matter what you do or say," he said.

The Energy Daily , an industry trade publication, on June 5, published a stinging commentary, "White House Greenhouse Rhetoric at Odds with Nuclear Reality," criticizing the administration for ignoring an Energy Information Administration analysis on U.S. carbon emissions. "The analysis conclusively illustrates the vital role that nuclear power must play, at least in the short run, in any serious U.S. greenhouse gas emissions reduction initiative," The Energy Daily wrote. "If the White House has any sense, it will listen to these arguments … If the Clinton administration is serious about global climate change, it needs to get serious about nuclear power."


The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available on NEI’s Internet site at