We'd rather keep the lights on than be green

The 189 nations and 8,000 delegates gathered last week in Montreal at the Climate Change Conference faced an ugly reality: most of the countries that promised to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to meet their Kyoto treaty obligations have failed to do so. It seems that job-creating economic growth trumps environmental concerns, especially given the uncertainty surrounding the presence and causes of global warming. Besides, developing countries such as India, China, South Africa and Brazil have shown no inclination to join, although richer countries agreed in Montreal to increase their incentives to cut emissions.

Indeed, when the energy crunches come, politicians quickly shed their green clothes. This week the Opec oil cartel hinted that its members might cut production to keep the price of crude oil above $60 a barrel. That sent consuming countries' policymakers into a spin. They want Opec to pump more, not less, oil to feed their thirsty cars, trucks and factories, and to heat the homes of those who have not switched to natural gas. Oh yes, that oil will produce more greenhouse-gas emissions - but that's a problem for another international conference.

Then there is natural gas. Suddenly the politicians are less concerned about the emissions resulting from the burning of natural gas than about shortages that might force some factories to shut down during periods of peak use of that relatively - but only relatively - clean fuel. Hell hath no fury like that of a workman (read, voter) laid off because his government's energy policy has resulted in a supply shortage.....

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