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While laws proposed to cut America's carbon emissions are often canned as a recipe for economic disaster, an advisor to both Bush administrations said the opposite is true during a luncheon meeting on climate change in Bozeman Thursday.

"It's a terrible injustice to the business community" that the United States hasn't passed either a carbon tax or cap-and-trade program, since it creates energy uncertainty, Douglas Holtz-Eakin told the crowd at the Baxter Hotel. "Utilities don't know what to invest in."

Holtz-Eakin, who was also John McCain's senior economic advisor during the 2008 presidential election, was part of a panel of speakers in Bozeman to both share research on climate change and suggest ways the United States could address the root of the problem, carbon dioxide.

The discussion was moderated by Wegger Christian Strommen, the Norwegian ambassador to the United States, who told the crowd that his country is feeling the impacts of climate change more than most.

"We live closest to the part of the plant that changes the quickest with climate change," he said. "The ice is going away."

While a question-and-answer session suggested there was nary a climate-change denier in the crowd, much of the program was devoted to showing the recent science regarding global warming, including a presentation by University of Montana professor Steve Running.

Running has research suggesting that warming trends in Montana will lead to less water in the state - though he admitted the wet weather this spring could make Montanans a tough audience for his presentation. He said extremely hot days in Montana will cause more evaporation of water and slowly dry the state out.

"Sixty, 80 years from now, Montana is going to look more like Utah," he said.

In his call for a tax on carbon, Holtz-Eakin said the new levy could be counter-balanced with a cut in corporate income and payroll taxes. He said he doesn't expect anything to pass soon.

"I don't see any prospect of a federal (carbon) law in the near-term, period," he said.

The discussion, called "The Business Case for a Carbon Policy," was put on by the Yellowstone Business Partnership, the Norwegian Embassy and Clean Air, Cool Planet.

Daniel Person can be reached at dperson@dailychronicle.com or 582-2665.

 

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