Neither the administration nor the Republicans have the stomach for the profound cultural changes required to meet Kyoto's targets. "We're the environmental bad guys," says Elmer-DeWitt. "We need a fundamental rethink about how we produce and consume energy." After all, who'd want to be the candidate telling Americans they'll have to trade in their SUVs for battery-powered cars?
The U.S. couldn't meet its global warming commitments even if it wanted to. The government's Energy Information Agency this week released its 1999 Annual Energy Outlook, which suggests that complying with the Kyoto Protocol -- recently signed by the U.S. -- will be almost impossible. The agency projects that by 2010, U.S. carbon gas emissions will have increased 33 percent from 1990 levels; Kyoto requires that they be 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by then. But fulfilling the Kyoto requirements may not even be the administration's intention. "They signed the Kyoto treaty as a freebie," says TIME science editor Phillip Elmer-DeWitt. "They can score points with environmentalists while at the same time they're counting on the Senate to kill it."