WASHINGTON - Hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs will be lost if a global-warming treaty spurs the fuel-price increases that some experts predict, a new study says.
The federally commissioned study covered six core U.S. manufacturing industries, most linked to automaking.
The report is 'a menu of devastation,' said Gail McDonald, president of Global Climate Coalition, which includes the Big 3.
The impact would ripple out from the six industries studied and would likely be replicated in other energy-intensive businesses, such as carmaking, she said.
The study, conducted by the Argonne National Laboratory for the Department of Energy, focused on the iron and steel, aluminum, petroleum refining, chemicals, cement and paper industries. They consume 70 percent of the energy used in manufacturing, the department said.
Various scenarios were considered. In one, for example, it was assumed that carbon taxes or other enforcement measures would force the price of natural gas 68 percent higher by 2015 while coal prices would surge 328 percent.
In that case, the study noted, all primary U.S. aluminum plants would close by 2010 and steel production would be cut by 30 percent, with a loss of 100,000 jobs.
While the report did not predict that plants would simply pick up and move, it said higher energy prices would encourage companies to shut down aging plants in the United States and to build new plants where energy costs were lower.
Not all analyses are so grim. An earlier study by Data Resources Inc. for the Energy Department said that if carbon taxes were used to shrink budget deficits and lower interest rates, some industries, such as auto production, would benefit.
Still, McDonald and others maintain the climate-change treaty currently envisioned will force factories to relocate to developing countries where greenhouse-gas limits would not be in effect - with no net benefit to the global environment.
As currently envisioned, the treaty would place limits on the United States, Canada, Japan, the European Union, Australia, New Zealand and, to a lesser extent, the nations of the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe.
All the rest of the world would be considered 'developing,' including such rising industrial powers as Mexico, China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and Korea.
While many countries are far too poor and undeveloped to reap major benefits from an exemption, the above countries could because of their industrial base.
Eugene Trisko, attorney for the United Mine Workers of America, said that when the nations of the world agreed in 1995 to not impose limits on developing countries, the proposed treaty 'ceased to be about the environment. It is about trade and development.'
Likewise, Chrysler Corp. Chairman Robert Eaton, in an opinion column published in the Washington Post last week, said, 'This has become a trade, economic and foreign-aid issue disguised as environmentalism, and we're moving toward a solution involving a massive transfer of American wealth that won't do a thing to keep the polar ice caps from melting, but would severely undermine this country's international competitiveness.'
SENATE OK REQUIRED
The discussion of economic dislocation was just one of the developments in the rapidly intensifying debate, which is to climax with the December signing in Kyoto, Japan, of a treaty committing developed nations to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, mainly carbon dioxide.
But such a treaty, if signed by the president, might never come into force.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved and sent to the full Senate last Thursday, July 17, a resolution signed by 65 senators warning the administration to not commit to a treaty that does not also bind developing nations to limits on greenhouse gases.
Any treaty negotiated by the administration would require confirmation by a two-thirds vote of the Senate, or 67 members.
Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., a co-sponsor of the resolution, said it should serve as a warning to the administration that its plan is doomed to be defeated. He said the administration threatens the credibility of the nation by making an agreement that cannot be ratified.
The next negotiating session on the treaty is set to begin July 31 in Bonn, Germany.