Fluorescent light bulbs – New twists in savings

Consumer Reports

October 2007 Issue

Swapping compact fluorescent light bulbs for incandescent bulbs is one of the simplest ways to save money and energy. Lower prices and better performance have eliminated many of the common complaints about CFLs.

Though prices vary depending on where you buy them, table CFLs cost only $2 to $3 per bulb, compared with $9 to $25 in 1999. Our tests confirm that each CFL will save you about $5 a year in electricity costs over a regular bulb, assuming it’s on 3 hours a day.

Because these fluorescent bulbs require less energy, power plants don’t have to produce as much electricity to power them. This could lead to a reduction in nitrogen oxides, which cause smog; substantial quantities of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas; mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants; and other pollutants, explains Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Energy Star-qualified CFLs must meet tough standards for start- and warm-up times, brightness, color, bulb life, and energy use. They also can’t hum or buzz. That’s why we recommend only Energy Star bulbs. We tested 200 fluorescent light bulbs from five major brands working closely with an outside lab. We also sent 120 bulbs home with 20 panelists. The results:

CFLs last longer. A typical incandescent lasts 1,000 hours. As we went to press, the spiral bulbs were still on after 3,000 hours. We cycle them on for 3 hours, off for 20 minutes, until they burn out.

CFLs aren’t right for every situation. Incandescent bulbs take less than a second to come close to full brightness. The fluorescent light bulbs we tested took between 25 seconds and 3.3 minutes. So they shouldn’t be used in areas where you need full brightness immediately, like a staircase. Spirals were the quickest, flood lights and covered outdoor bulbs the slowest. And don’t use CFLs in lights that are on for less than 15 minutes at a time, like closets. Frequent cycling shortens their life.

Recycling efforts lag. The fluorescent light bulbs we tested contain about 5 milligrams or less of mercury, a neurotoxin, or about 1 percent of the amount in an old-fashioned thermometer. Even so, those bulbs should be recycled so that the mercury isn’t released into the environment. Most municipalities don’t have residential CFL recycling programs. Nor will most of the stores that eagerly sell CFLs take the spent bulbs back.

Contact your sanitation department to find out if recycling is an option in your area. You can also go to www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling to find recyclers. While Ikea sells and collects used fluorescent light bulbs for recycling, it doesn’t sell Energy Star bulbs. Sylvania has a mail-in program, but it’s pricey. See The bulb is in the mail.

Check whether your local Household Hazardous Waste Collection Site recycles CFLs. As a last resort, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends sealing fluorescent light bulbs in two plastic bags and putting them in the trash.

US Energy official says US will regulate carbon emissions, but unclear

The Associated Press

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands: The United States is moving toward the regulation of carbon emissions, a U.S. energy official said Thursday, even though the Bush administration adheres to a voluntary approach to controlling the primary gas blamed for climate change.

“There will be carbon regulation of some sort,” said Dan Arvizu, director of the National Renewable Energy Lab, speaking a week after he briefed U.S. President George W. Bush’s global warming conference in Washington of major carbon-emitting nations.

“I am neutral as to which kind of carbon management regulation there will be. It is very clear to me that there will be carbon management, whether it will be a direct tax, carbon cap-and-trade or some other instrument,” Arvizu told an international conference on the next generation of biofuels.

Arvizu did not say he was speaking for the administration. But some of his listeners thought it was significant that he spoke after the Washington meeting that brought the United States together with leading industrial nations which have embraced stringent mandatory controls and with developing countries like India, China and Brazil which are totally unregulated.

“He’s picking up the vibe” in Washington, said Patrick Mazza, chairman of the biofuel conference and research director of Climate Solutions based in Seattle, Washington.

Arvizu later told The Associated Press the United States “is headed in a different direction than we were a few years ago.” He said executives of utility companies and U.S. oil giants — two lobbies that had resisted regulation — now want predictable and transparent carbon policies.

“Certainly my reference point has changed dramatically,” he said. “The position of this administration is beginning to evolve.”

In his speech to the Washington conference, Bush reiterated his view that each nation should set targets for itself and decide how it will combat global warming without hindering economic growth.

But Arvizu said that, while Bush remained in favor of voluntary targets, his position is not as rigid as it once was, and he made a point of telling the Washington meeting that he has accepted a mandatory renewable fuel standard for vehicles.

He said the U.S. government would invest US$2 billion (€1.4 billion) over the next four to five years to develop alternative transportation fuels and reduce dependency on oil imports. The focus on ethanol will shift to a “more robust biofuel,” he told industrial leaders and environmentalists who are working on new biofuel solutions.

Transportation accounts for 30 percent of U.S. carbon emissions, he said, compared with a global average of 20 percent, which he said was causing “a great deal of angst” in Washington.

Buy your way to carbon neutrality?

By Alan Zarembo
Los Angeles Times

The Oscar-winning film “An Inconvenient Truth” touted itself as the world’s first carbon-neutral documentary.

The producers said that every ounce of carbon emitted during production — from jet travel, electricity for filming and gasoline for cars and trucks — was counterbalanced by reducing emissions somewhere else. It only made sense that a film about the perils of global warming wouldn’t contribute to the problem.

Co-producer Lesley Chilcott used an online calculator to estimate that shooting the film used 41.4 tons of carbon dioxide and paid a middleman, a company called Native Energy, $12 a ton, or $496.80, to broker a deal to cut greenhouse gases elsewhere. The film’s distributors later made a similar payment to neutralize carbon dioxide from the movie’s marketing.

It was a ridiculously good deal with one problem: So far, it has not led to any additional emissions reductions.

Beneath the feel-good simplicity of buying your way to carbon neutrality is a growing concern that the idea is more hype than solution.

According to Native Energy, money from “An Inconvenient Truth,” along with payments from others trying to neutralize their emissions, went to the developers of a methane collector on a Pennsylvanian farm and three wind turbines in an Alaskan village.

“If you really believe you’re carbon-neutral, you’re kidding yourself,” said Gregg Marland, a fossil-fuel pollution expert at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. “You can’t get out of it that easily.”

The race to save the planet from global warming has spawned an industry of middlemen selling environmental salvation at bargain prices.

The companies take millions of dollars collected from their customers and funnel them into carbon-cutting projects, such as tree farms in Ecuador, windmills in Minnesota and no-till fields in Iowa.

In return, customers get to claim the reductions, known as voluntary carbon offsets, as their own. For less than $100 a year, even a Hummer can be pollution-free — at least on paper.

Driven by guilt, public relations or genuine concern over global warming, tens of thousands of people have bought offsets to zero out their carbon effect on the planet.

“It made me feel better about driving my car,” said Nicky Tenpas, a 29-year-old occupational therapist from Hermosa Beach, Calif., who bought offsets to neutralize emissions from the Jeep she always wanted.

Offset companies stress that they are not a cure-all for the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions, which are equivalent to 54 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year.

Tom Boucher, chief executive of Native Energy, said people first should reduce their energy consumption and waste and then buy offsets. “The only way to really get to zero unless you stop driving, stop traveling.”

But the industry is clouded by an approach to carbon accounting that makes it easy to claim reductions that didn’t occur. Many projects that have received money from offset companies would have reduced emissions by the same amount anyway.

The growing popularity of offsets has prompted the Federal Trade Commission to begin looking into the $55-million-a-year industry.

“Everybody would like to find happy-face, win-win solutions that don’t cost anything,” said Robert Stavins, an environmental economist at Harvard University. “Unfortunately, they don’t exist.”

Lagoon an opportunity

In the rolling hills of southwestern Pennsylvania, outside the town of Berlin, Dave Van Gilder’s family has been raising cows for four decades. He and his twin sons, Jason and Justin, tend to their 400 Holsteins while his wife, Connie, keeps the books.

The smell of manure has long been the sweet exhaust of a dairy farm running full tilt.

Millions of pounds of cow excrement over the decades were funneled from the barns to a 3.3-million-gallon lagoon, where it decayed, burping invisible clouds of the potent greenhouse-gas methane.

In the days of Van Gilder’s father, nobody cared about the greenhouse gases.

But things began to change a few years ago. Van Gilder didn’t know it, but his lagoon had become an economic opportunity.

A local congressman urged him to apply for a state alternative-energy grant to build a system that would capture methane from cow manure and burn it to generate electricity.

The project, known as a methane digester, would cost about $750,000 — $631,000 of it coming from the state and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Van Gilder had to make up the difference, but he figured he could earn that back — and in several years start making money — by supplying electricity for the farm and selling the excess to the local utility.

A year before construction began, Van Gilder was contacted by Native Energy, which wanted to buy his emissions reduction, along with the reductions of others who had won state energy grants.

Van Gilder had never heard of the company or the idea of selling clean air. He gladly signed a contract to sell Native Energy 29,000 tons in carbon-dioxide reductions — the company’s estimate of how much greenhouse gas the digester will keep out of the atmosphere over the next 20 years.

“There wasn’t a lot of negotiation,” said Van Gilder, who was happy to accept whatever the company was offering.

Family members said the contract forbid them from disclosing the payment, but based on a contract with another dairy farmer, signed with Native Energy, it was about $70,000, or $2.40 a ton.

Justin Van Gilder said the money had nothing to do with the family’s decision to build its methane plant. “It was a free bonus,” he said.

“We still don’t understand it all,” Connie Van Gilder said. “It’s hard for us to fathom, to see what it is doing.”

Eager for offsets

The situation was similar for the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, a utility for dozens of remote communities.

In early 2006, account manager Brent Petrie was at an Anchorage environmental conference talking about a windmill project that the cooperative was building in the Yup’ik Eskimo village of Kasigluk, a soggy patch of tundra on the remote Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in western Alaska.

Rising 100 feet over the landscape, the three 100-kilowatt turbines were intended to reduce the area’s dependence on diesel generators, whose fuel must be shipped in on barges. Federal grants were covering $2.8 million of the project’s $3.1 million cost.

Petrie barely had finished his presentation when he was cornered by representatives from two brokers — Native Energy and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation — eager to buy the project’s offsets.

The cooperative sold 25 years of carbon-dioxide reductions to Native Energy for $36,000 — roughly $4 a ton.

Native Energy had contributed slightly more than 1 percent of the total cost of the project yet claimed 100 percent of its carbon reductions.

“If you look at the costs of these projects, it’s a tiny, tiny fraction,” cooperative President Meera Kohler said. The payment did “not determine whether those blades turn or not.”

At best, Kohler said, the money could cover some maintenance costs.

Despite its relatively small role in the project, Native Energy counts the windmills as a success, demonstrating the power of carbon offsets to encourage clean energy.

“Every kilowatt-hour they produce means one fewer kilowatt-hour is generated by the diesel generators that otherwise provide power for this village,” the company’s Web site says.

Untapped market

Wind power has long been a fascination for Boucher, Native Energy’s co-founder. As an electrical-engineering major in the 1970s at the University of Vermont, he built a 25-foot-high wind turbine in his parents’ backyard, carving the blades from a piece of redwood.

He later worked at a Vermont utility and helped develop one of the first wind farms in the northeast. Boucher started his own company in the 1990s to sell alternative energy but soon came upon a simpler and possibly more lucrative product: voluntary carbon offsets.

It was a new twist on an old idea.

About 30 years ago, the U.S. government began fostering emissions markets that allowed industrial polluters to buy offsets for such gases as nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides. One of their successes has been in reducing acid rain in the Northeast.

The Europeans recently have adopted a similar model to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions, allowing the continent’s dirtiest industries to buy and sell rights to spew greenhouse gases.

The key to these regulated markets is a gradually falling cap on total emissions, forcing factories to either reduce their own emissions or buy someone else’s reductions at increasing prices.

Boucher and other environmental entrepreneurs, however, believed there was an untapped market for carbon reductions: people and companies who would buy them voluntarily.

“What was coming was a way for folks to take actions against global warming,” said Boucher, a bearded 52-year-old who has long believed that alternative energy can be competitive with cheaper power from fossil fuels.

Benefits from film

After Native Energy’s name was mentioned in the final credits for “An Inconvenient Truth,” visits to the company’s Web site jumped 1,100 percent, marketing director Billy Connelly said.

As a private company, it doesn’t report its revenue, but Connelly said he expects it will double its sales this year, reaching a total of about 1 million tons of carbon dioxide neutralized since its founding.

“Things have really taken off in the last year or two,” Boucher said. The company has about 20 employees.

Native Energy now finds itself facing competition from nearly three dozen other offset companies worldwide. Some are nonprofit, but most of the biggest are in business to make money.

In 2006, offset companies sold greenhouse gas-reductions equivalent to at least 14.8 million tons of carbon dioxide, more than double the previous year, said Katherine Hamilton, carbon project manager for Ecosystem Marketplace, which tracks the industry.

Sales are expected to double again this year.

For all the money spent, nobody can say if the offsets have done much to alleviate global warming.

The problem is whether the voluntary reductions really exist. The buzzword in the industry is “additionality” — the idea that offset purchases actually lead to additional greenhouse-gas reductions.

The concept should be simple: Pay for a project, monitor its actual reductions, then claim your share.

Instead, offset companies often have vague requirements to determine if their potential investments actually would lead to additional reductions.

Native Energy says it looks for projects that need offset revenue to survive — a difficult standard, since the projects are expensive and the offset payments are relatively small. But even if a project can stand on its own, it still can qualify for the money if it is novel or simply “not business as usual,” according to the company’s Web site.

That definition has allowed Native Energy and other offset companies to claim the carbon reductions from projects in which they have played minor roles. Still, Native Energy’s contract requires projects to certify that whatever offset money they receive “is a necessary component of the project’s economic viability.”

The company has struggled with whether its funding matters. Boucher said the windmills in Alaska were debated for weeks inside Native Energy since the project already had been funded by the government. “This is a case of one of the more difficult determinations,” he said.

Native Energy, he said, eventually concluded that its contribution, if used as a reserve fund for emergency repairs, was meaningful. It helps “to make sure these turbines will run as well as they can, and to further the chances that other wind farms will be built,” he said.

In the case of the methane digester, Boucher said the reductions were additional since the offset payments helped cover a significant portion of Van Gilder’s out-of-pocket expenses.

The best way to ensure additionality, according to Native Energy, is to pay a project for a decade or more of offsets while the developers are still arranging the financing. The downside is that the carbon reductions might not occur for a decade or more.

Concerns raised

Several environmental and clean-energy groups also have raised concerns about verifying projects, monitoring their actual carbon reductions and ensuring that each carbon offset is not sold more than once.

“People are trying to do the right thing,” said Peter Knight, a partner with Gore in Generation Investment Management, which invests in environmentally responsible companies. “It’s a new field … and it’s going through some growing pains.”

Without government regulation and mandatory caps on emissions, all that is left to drive offset sales is guilt and marketing. Offset companies charge what the market will bear.

“How much are you willing to spend to feel good or to impress your neighbors?” asked Marland, of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Some investors eye companies’ ‘carbon footprints’ as risk factors

By Marilyn Geewax
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

WASHINGTON — Stock investors already are worried about interest rates, oil prices and credit crunches.

Now environmentalists, state officials and others say shareholders should pay close attention to another risk: a company’s “carbon footprint.”

They want corporations to release more information related to greenhouse gas emissions so that investors can better judge whether they may be exposing themselves to lawsuits and other costs related to climate change.

In recent days, the environmentalists have scored some successes, getting Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to take action, as well as stepping up pressure on regulators to require more disclosure from publicly traded companies.

“Smart companies know that profits and jobs come from solving problems, not ignoring them,” Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense, said in a news release announcing his group’s effort to demand greater disclosure. “Investors have a right to know who is paying attention.”

But some analysts say companies cannot be expected to anticipate every conceivable risk, especially from events that may be years away.

“Companies know legislation is coming down the road” to force reductions in emissions, said Rajeev Dhawan, director of the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University. But forecasting exactly how such changes might affect the bottom line or reshape the economy is impossible, given that Congress has not passed significant greenhouse gas legislation.

“Government can’t require information on everything” that could possibly impact the future, Dhawan said.

But Environmental Defense, an advocacy group, argues that all companies, even low-polluting ones such as banks and phone service providers, should estimate the financial impact of having their operations disrupted by global warming-related changes such as rising sea levels, floods and droughts.

Just as companies already inform investors about hazardous waste risks, they should warn them about climate-change risks, the argument goes.

Earlier this month, Environmental Defense joined with nearly two dozen state officials, plus pension fund managers and other environmentalists, to petition the Securities and Exchange Commission to use existing law to require disclosures about legal proceedings related to carbon emissions, and financial losses related to climate changes.

SEC spokesman John Nester said the SEC does not have to respond to petitions.

He noted the agency already requires companies to disclose “material environmental issues” that could have an effect “upon the capital expenditures, earnings and competitive position of a company.”

But last week, Wal-Mart decided not to wait for legislation or regulatory requirements. Instead, it announced it would begin asking suppliers to measure, and then reduce, their carbon footprints. It will start by focusing on seven categories: DVDs, toothpaste, soap, milk, beer, vacuum cleaners and soda.

“Some of them are things we rarely think about — like our vacuum cleaners — and some of them are things we’d rather think about, like beer and movies,” John Fleming, Wal-Mart’s chief merchandising officer, said at a New York news conference. “But each of these products has an impact on our planet.”

Fleming said even huge suppliers such as the Coca-Cola Co. have agreed to participate in its carbon-disclosure program and to reduce emissions.

The company said it is working with the Carbon Disclosure Project, a non-profit group of 315 institutional investors controlling about $41 trillion in assets.

On Monday, the project released its fifth annual global survey of 2,400 large companies’ self-reported carbon emissions and energy costs.

Four of five U.S. companies consider climate change to be more of a risk than a commercial opportunity, the study said.

But only about 29 percent of firms said they have specific targets and timelines for reducing emissions.

Wal-Mart is not alone in trying to reduce its carbon footprint.

For example, Dell Inc. promised last week that in 2008, it will become the first major computer manufacturer to neutralize the carbon effect of its worldwide operations.

Bush: Nations must choose to cut pollution

By James Gerstenzang
Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — President Bush, who took office skeptical about global warming, said Friday that the nations emitting the most greenhouse gases — a group that includes the United States — must reduce their pollution levels.

But he also insisted on voluntary goals for such efforts, which he said could be met largely through new technology that would create what he called “an age of clean energy.”

He set a two-year deadline for nations in a U.S.-led conference to reach a consensus on how to cut emissions, a schedule that punts the decision to his successor. He also proposed creating an international fund, with contributions from governments, to help make clean-energy technology available.

Critics chastised Bush for failing to call for immediate and specific steps to increase energy efficiency, expand use of renewable fuels and move toward mandatory emissions restrictions similar to those set to expire in 2012 under the Kyoto Protocol, an international pact the United States never signed.

Bush spoke on the second and final day of a 17-nation conference at the U.S. State Department that brought together energy consumers and officials from some of the world’s major economies.

Bush acknowledged that climate change is real and human activity is a factor.

“By setting this goal, we acknowledge there is a problem, and by setting this goal, we commit ourselves to doing something about it,” he said. “We share a common responsibility: to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions while keeping our economies growing.”

James Connaughton, who as chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality oversaw this week’s meeting, said it met his goal of putting “issues on the table.”

But Mogens Peter Carl, the European Union’s director general for the environment, said there needed to be talk about targets for emissions reductions, rather than broad goals.

The global-warming debate has proved troublesome for Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, both of whom spent several years in the oil business. Bush rarely speaks of it at such length.

With the demand for energy forecast by many experts to rise more than 50 percent by 2030, Bush challenged conference participants to find a way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions while meeting the needs for economic growth.

Bush called for “a new international approach on greenhouse-gas emissions,” one that would commit “the world’s largest producers” of the gases to set goals for reducing them and to do so by next summer at a meeting of heads of state.

The program would include a system to measure progress toward the goals and would be followed by a “global consensus” at the United Nations by 2009 on emissions reductions.

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and a veteran observer of international global-warming negotiations, said the conference had “achieved nothing.”

He also said: “As long as the White House continues to oppose mandatory pollution limits, it is part of the problem, not the solution.”

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Clinton Global Initiative hears pledges

By Deepti Hajela
Associated Press

NEW YORK — Some pledges were huge, such as a commitment from the Florida Power & Light Co. to build a solar power plant as part of a $2.4 billion clean energy program.

Others were smaller, but still substantial. CARE, a humanitarian organization dedicated to fighting global poverty, promised $150 million to provide health services to 30 million women and children. BRAC, a Bangladesh nonprofit, vowed to spend $271 million to educate 7.5 million young people in Asia and Africa.

The first day of the Clinton Global Initiative brought out a number of commitments as participants made pledges Wednesday toward action on such global causes as climate change, poverty, health care and education. More promises were expected Thursday.

Founded by former President Clinton, CGI draws world leaders, celebrities and scholars for three days of discussions on global issues and asks them to take concrete steps on those causes.

Brad Pitt announced that his Make It Right project was prepared to break ground by the end of the year on 150 affordable, environmentally friendly homes in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

“This is doable – this is not that difficult,” Pitt said. “I’ve seen these designs. They’re fantastic.”

Pitt’s partner, Angelina Jolie, spoke about education. She announced a commitment from the members of the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, which she co-chairs, to help educate more than 1 million children around the world.

The Education Partnership, founded in 2006, helps fund education programs for children affected by conflict. The 2007 commitment includes $1.2 million to build an educational complex in southern Sudan, a plan to take “Sesame Street” to Afghanistan and a distance learning project that would reach 150,000 children, including those affected by the war in Iraq.

“They say education is not lifesaving,” Jolie said at a news conference with representatives of the Education Partnership’s member organizations. “All of us would beg to differ.”

Pitt and Jolie were among close to 1,300 people – famous and not, liberal and conservative – attending the third CGI conference.

There was even a brief reunion as Clinton and his former vice president, Al Gore, shared a stage Wednesday for a discussion of the need for global action.

Although there has been a chill in their relationship, the two Democrats spoke warmly of each other. Clinton praised Gore for his environmental activism, and Gore plugged Clinton’s new book.

“This climate crisis is not going to be solved only by personal actions and business actions,” Gore said Wednesday at the conference. “We need changes in laws, changes in policies. We need leadership, and we need a new treaty.”

More than 50 current and former world leaders were on the list of attendees, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Tennis star Andre Agassi and media mogul Rupert Murdoch were also on the conference’s guest list this year.

Those who attend pay a $15,000 registration fee and are expected to commit time or money to the conference’s big issues. Those who do not fulfill their pledges are not invited back.

Clinton spokesman Ben Yarrow said there were five people this year whose registration fees were not accepted.

On the Net:

Clinton Global Initiative: http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org/

Rice urges nations to find cleaner fuels

By John Heilprin
The Seattle Times

WASHINGTON — President Bush’s climate meeting opened Thursday with its main problem on full display: The biggest polluters – industrialized and developing nations alike – say their economies are more important than global warming.

Not for the richest nations, retort Europeans, the United Nations and some developing nations.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, anticipating such divisions, urged all sides to work together to “accelerate the prospects” of a U.N.-led solution later this year at talks in Bali, Indonesia.

“Pitting the developed and the developing countries against each other will not lead to economic development and environmental sustainability,” he said in remarks prepared for Thursday night. “We must tear down artificial barriers that impede the spread of today’s clean technologies. There is no moral or economic reason for tariffs or non-tariff barriers on environmental goods or services.”

The U.S. talks, following on the heels of the United Nations’ climate gathering Monday, is an attempt to influence what happens after 2012, when the U.N.-brokered Kyoto Protocol mandating greenhouse gas cuts by industrial nations expires. The emphasis, as with much of Bush’s climate approach, is on the sharing of green technology.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for a solution “that does not starve economies of the energy they need to grow and that does not widen the already significant income gap between developed and developing nations.”

But she left it to nations to set their own goals and priorities.

“Let me emphasize that this is not a one-size-fits-all effort,” Rice said at the start of a two-day climate meeting called by Bush. “Though united by common goals and collective responsibilities, all nations should tackle climate change in the ways that they deem best.”

Rice also called for nations to “cut the Gordian Knot of fossil fuels, carbon emissions, and economic activity.”

Though the White House-led meeting includes Britain, France, Germany and other nations in the Kyoto accord, many European officials expressed concern that Bush’s meeting would sidetrack the U.N. negotiations that have been the main forum for addressing global warming.

On Thursday, German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that he did not think that the Bush administration would be an impediment to global talks.

“We all know that they will be out of office in a few months,” he said on NDR Info radio. Bush leaves office in January, 2009.

Later, Gabriel told reporters the conference was a sign that the Bush administration was engaging in the issue.

“The good news is that we are negotiating,” he said. He said Europeans would be watching closely a speech by Bush at the conference Friday to gauge the U.S. commitment.

The U.S. talks proposed new “processes” and work teams for negotiating solutions. Despite the emphasis on bureaucracy, James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, told participants: “This has to be about more than presentations.”

Yvo de Boer, the top U.N. climate official, told the 16 nations participating in the White House-led meeting that “this relatively small group of countries holds a key to tackling a big part of the problem” but that their response can succeed only by “going well beyond present efforts,” especially among rich, industrialized nations.

While the U.N. supports mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases by rich nations, Bush’s rejection of the treaty stands: The U.S. won’t do more than slow its growth rate of emissions, and whatever requirements the world agrees upon should extend equally to fast-developing nations like China and India.

Developing nations such as China, Mexico and Indonesia say reducing poverty must be their main priority, but that they also can reduce emissions carbon dioxide and other warming gases, for example by targeting some parts of their economies for cuts or by planting trees and cutting down fewer forest lands.

They argue that rich nations should make greater use of Kyoto’s Clean Development Mechanism, which lets them meet their carbon cuts by paying for projects in poorer countries.

“Poverty is still No. 1,” Emil Salim, an economist and member of the Indonesian president’s council of advisers, told The Associated Press.

“It is correct that for the developed countries, climate change is more important,” said Salim, a former Indonesian minister for population and environment. “But for the developing nations, the key notion is how to get poverty reduction and search for a pattern of development that is different than the developed nations.”

As they consider ways to curb greenhouse gases, developing nations expressed a preference for U.N.-sponsored talks to decide on a post-2012 strategy and said they do not want to give up ground toward industrializing – and meeting basic human needs.

Bush’s meeting has competed for attention with the climate change summit held Monday in New York City, at which U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned 80 world leaders that “the time for doubt has passed” and urged fast action to save future generations from potentially ruinous effects of global warming.

About 70 demonstrators from Greenpeace and other environmental groups gathered Thursday outside the State Department, where dozens were arrested for refusing to leave the premise after two hours of protest. The activists labeled the conference a fraud for not encouraging mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases.

“I’m here to protest the fact that we are having a climate conference when we should have been signing the Kyoto agreement,” said Lauren Siegel, 23, from New York, N.Y., as she was loaded into a police van. “This is a diversion,” she said of the conference.