Trying to steer a middle path in the battle between conservatives and environmentalists over reducing global warming, President Clinton on Wednesday managed to enrage both sides.
As soon as Clinton announced his strategy for slowing the release of the "greenhouse gases" that appear to cause global warming, critics took aim at the proposal.
Leading the charge from the right was Rep. Bill Paxon, R-Amherst, who said Clinton's proposal "would wind up costing billions of dollars and millions of jobs" and would result in a possible 50 percent increase in home-heating prices.
Many environmentalists, meanwhile, called the proposal halfhearted.
"The president's plan is not adequate to solve the critical problem of global climate change," said Mark Van Putten, National Wildlife Federation president.
Clinton unveiled his proposal before the National Geographic Society, saying: "Make no mistake, the problem is real. And if we do not change our course now, the consequences sooner or later will be destructive for America and for the world."
The president's proposal will be used as his administration's negotiating position for an international treaty to reduce global warming. He said he aims to
reduce the emission of greenhouse gases no later than 2012 by:
Providing tax cuts and research spending worth up to $5 billion as incentives to industry to save energy and switch to cleaner energy sources.
Developing a worldwide market in which companies and countries could trade emissions "credits" -- a program similar to one set up in 1990 to reduce acid rain.
Deregulating the electric utility industry and dramatically improving the federal government's energy efficiency.
To Paxon, the Clinton proposal appears woefully short on details.
"The question really is: What is this going to cost?" Paxon asked.
In a news conference Wednesday, Paxon pointed to private studies that say the global-warming treaty could boost gasoline prices by up to 60 cents a gallon and warned that developing countries would not have to meet the same tough, anti-pollution standards as the United States.
"That will give workers in developing nations a tremendous advantage over workers in Buffalo or Rochester" and, therefore, probably will cost jobs in those areas, Paxon said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the industry-backed Global Climate Coalition echoed Paxon's concerns. Gail McDonald, president of the coalition, said the proposal probably would bring energy taxes or rationing.
"This means lower employment and a lower American standard of living," she said.
Many environmentalists, meanwhile, were disappointed that Clinton did not agree with European leaders that are urging strict limits on greenhouse gases by 2005.
The Environmental Defense Fund was virtually the only major environmental group to back Clinton's plan, which also drew the ire of European treaty negotiators.
"Something much more substantial will need to come out of the White House if the United States is to face up to its global responsibilities," said Peter Joergensen, environment spokesman for the European Commission.