The U.S. oil industry wants to contribute to solutions to the potential risks of climate change, said William O'Keefe, American Petroleum Institute executive vice-president.
He told a congressional hearing that U.S. oil industry leaders believe that some precautionary actions should be taken to reduce the growth in greenhouse gas emissions.
But he said the Kyoto Protocol negotiated by the Clinton administration represents a policy driven by ideology and "pseudo facts" and is therefore "doomed to failure."
O'Keefe said, "Fortunately, we have sufficient time to craft a course of action based on facts, hardheaded analysis, and objective assessment of the climate risks."
He said that, despite the claims of critics, the oil industry recognizes "potential human-induced climate change as a legitimate risk.
"The debate is not about action or inaction but what set of actions is consistent with our state of knowledge and economic well-being."
O'Keefe contends that the current state of scientific knowledge suggests that any effects pointing to global warming are "more moderate and in the more distant future than the Kyoto Protocol implies."
Given that, he said, the protocol would "waste society's scarce resources and divert them from actions that would be far more beneficial."
Strategy neededWhat's needed, O'Keefe said, is a strategy that provides time to develop technologies, engages all nations in addressing the climate risk, and does not harm the U.S. economy or the economic aspirations of developing economies.
For the U.S., O'Keefe said, compliance with the Kyoto Protocol "would require Americans to drastically slash their energy use in order to cut carbon emissions by a third in little over a decade."
O'Keefe recalled the damage to the U.S. economy-recessions, lost income, and high unemployment-caused by the energy price shocks of the 1970s, and said that the consequences of putting the Kyoto agreement in place would be even greater.
The Clinton administration, the EU, and environmentalists say that the Kyoto targets for reducing greenhouse emissions can be met by eliminating waste, sharply increasing the use of renewable energy, and adopting new energy conservation technologies.
In fact, O'Keefe said, the U.S. already makes efficient use of its energy resources and industry routinely invests in technologies that save energy.
"The U.S. economy would not be the envy of the world if Americans squandered valuable economic resources," he said. "We can debate how to continue making progress, but I hope that no one seriously disputes the conclusion that coercive government actions would not provide new insights on how to get more production from less energy."
In contrast, he said, the oil industry is investing billions of dollars in technologies, new energy sources, and environmental protection.
"We are committed to being part of the solution to the climate risk and to active participation in the debate to forge a clear, defensible policy."
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