MAC: Mines and Communities

US Update

Published by MAC on 2007-06-08

US update

8th June 2007

An attempt by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and industry to weaken protections under the Clean Air Act seems finally to have reched a nemesis in yet another blow for the Bush regime. Sixteen US states have urged the EPA to tighten rules - deemed "legally flawed" which allow coal-fired power plants to escape stricter controls on their emissions.

Three city officials from Mexico and the US have joined in an historic first meeting to discuss how they can meet the threat from a possible re-opening of Asarco's notoriously polluting base metal smelters in Texas.

Eight US plants using mercury cells are near to closure: fears have been expressed that the waste mercury may end up in small-scale gold mining ventures in South America, Asia and Africa.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), such usage appears to be highest in China, which releases 200 to 250 metric tons into the atmosphere per year; Indonesia comes in second, with 100 to 150 metric tons of releases; while Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Peru, the Philippines, Venezuela, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe each emit 10 to 30 metric tons per year.

China and Kyrgyzstan, says the UNEP, are the only states which continue to permit the mining of mercury.

A survey intended to gauge opinions on which governmen is most responsible for global warming, suggests that "educated" Chinese and Indian citizens may be more concerned about their own countries' global greenhouse emissions than those of the United States - although it's the worst culprit.

EPA Loses Court Attempt to Weaken Clean Air Rule


8th June 2007

A federal appeals court today declined to reconsider its December 2006 ruling that struck down the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, rule that attempting to weaken protections against ground level ozone, a component of smog associated with respiratory illness.

Petitions by the EPA and industry groups to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia were denied.

The case arose from changes that have been made to the Clean Air Act since it was enacted in 1990.

The 1990 Clean Air Act required stronger anti-smog measures in cities violating ozone standards, including limits on pollution from new and expanded factories, requirements for annual cuts in smog-forming emissions, and caps on truck and car exhaust.

In 1997, the EPA found that the then-existing "1-hour" ozone health standard was not strong enough to protect health, and adopted a new "8-hour" standard to provide greater protection.

But in 2004, the EPA adopted rules that weakened pollution control requirements for areas violating both the old and the new standard.

That decision triggered the court challenge leading to that rule being struck down in December 2006, and the EPA-industry appeals being rebuffed today.

The court characterized the industry's desired readings of the law as a "glaring loophole" that nothing suggests Congress intended.

Recognizing the harm from EPA's delay, laxity and lawlessness, the court "urged" EPA to "act promptly in promulgating a revised rule that effectuates the statutory mandate by implementing the eight-hour [ozone] standard, which was deemed necessary to protect the public health a decade ago."

Earthjustice successfully represented a group of public health and environmental organizations - the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club - that challenged the EPA rule, and later defended the court's December decision that overturned the rule.

Also challenging the EPA rules were the Louisiana Environmental Network, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the Clean Air Task Force, on behalf of the Conservation Law Foundation and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and a coalition of states including Massachusetts, Delaware, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.

"Today's decision reaffirms that EPA must follow the Clean Air Act and limit this harmful pollution," said Earthjustice attorney David Baron.

"Health experts agree that we need stronger protections, not weaker limits on smog pollution."

States Urge US EPA to Tighten Rules on Coal Plants

PlanetArk US

7th June 2007

NEW YORK - New York and 15 other states on Tuesday urged federal regulators to put teeth into a proposed pollution rule aimed at making US electric utilities reduce smog and global warming emissions when they expand or modernize their coal-fired power plants.

"Pollution from coal-burning power plants and other facilities cause real problems throughout the United States from acid rain to urban smog to global warming," New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

Cuomo and attorneys general from the other mostly East Coast and western states urged the Environmental Protection Agency to change its proposed rule on enforcement of the New Source Review program, which seeks to ensure air quality is not worsened by overhauls and additions at power plants and other emissions sources.

Cuomo said the emissions, which come mainly from power plants in the Midwest, "threaten people in New York State and other northeastern states downwind of these plants."

At issue is the ability for US power companies to modernize and expand their aging fleet of about 500 coal-fired power plants to keep them running.

The EPA proposed the rule this spring in response to a 2005 D.C. Circuit Court's decision in a case in which New York sued the agency.

The states say an original EPA rule did not require plants making modifications to track and report their emissions so long as the plant operators saw no "reasonable possibility" that these changes would trigger NSR requirements.

They say the EPA's new proposed rule fails to fix this problem, making it easier for power plants to escape emissions enforcement.

In a letter the states sent on Tuesday to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, they said the EPA proposal is "legally flawed."

Letters from such coalitions can be presented as public comments in lawsuits, though the issue has not reached that level.

EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood said in an e-mail that the Bush administration "has established rules that will achieve significant and permanent reductions in power plant emissions, as well as encourage safety and energy efficiency."

The other attorneys general that signed the letter represent California, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Vermont. The top law enforcers for Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico also signed the letter.

Story by Timothy Gardner


Two countries, 3 cities take stand Against ASARCO, ASARCO Fights Back

by Rene Leon

1st June 2007

The governing bodies of three sister cities in the Borderland – El Paso, Sunland Park, N.M., and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico – came together Thursday morning in a historic joint meeting to discuss several issues facing their communities, chief among them being the possible reopening of ASARCO.

The governing bodies of three sister cities in the Borderland – El Paso, Sunland Park, N.M., and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico – came together Thursday morning in a historic joint meeting to discuss several issues facing their communities, chief among them being the possible reopening of ASARCO. The mayors and their respective city councils held the meeting before several other elected officials, community leaders and members of the public and media at Monument 1, the area near the Rio Grande banks where the two countries' and three cities' borders converge.

The unprecedented ceremony was presided over by Dr. Tony Payan, an assistant professor of international law and foreign policy in UTEP's political science department.

In convening the meeting, Payan told the councils and audience, both in English and Spanish, just how the gathering would proceed: each government was to commence its meeting according to its own protocols and traditions, Ciudad Juarez first, Sunland Park second, and El Paso third; then the joint meeting would be open to discussion and action regarding the various chosen topics.

A Mexican honor guard opened Juarez's council meeting, during which Mexican citizens stood in absolute reverence with a one-hand salute held over their hearts.

El Paso's council meeting was opened with a performance of the national anthem by city engineering department employee Denise Baisely.

After each council formally convened, they began to debate the selected issues, the first being that of ASARCO.

The Juarez council debated and quickly voted to join its sister cities in an official stance against ASARCO's air permit renewal. The Sunland Park and El Paso councils followed suit, entering into an unprecedented bi-national agreement against what many claim is an outdated industry that will have a negative impact on the region.

Sunland Park Mayor Ruben Segura stated that his city is a fast-growing municipality in one of the fastest-growing counties in New Mexico and that it has become a hotspot for tourism and entertainment in the area.

"This is our lifeline in regards to our municipality," he said. "I ask members of council and members of the public that we unite as a community" against ASARCO, Segura added.

El Paso Mayor John Cook told the delegations that while ASARCO is located in the state of Texas and the city of El Paso, it has an impact on Sunland Park and Ciudad Juarez as well.

The delegations heard from State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, who was in favor of the resolution, and they also heard from Dr. John Haines, a toxicology expert who spoke on the alleged health hazards he said would be posed by ASARCO emitting of several tons of pollutants into the air annually.

"Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead – 3 pollutants present at all smelters I've ever been to," Haynes said.

Haynes, the son a mining engineer, also said that El Paso has the highest level of lead contamination ever encountered in a community in North America. He said the contamination was accidentally discovered by a pediatrician, and that the effects of elevated lead levels can be devastating to children, especially neurologically.

The harmful effects of arsenic, a known carcinogen that can cause gastrointestinal and blood disorders, and cadmium, a heavy metal that has become a recent interest of toxicologists, were also detailed to the delegations.

"What we see as a hazard today may be obvious tomorrow," Haynes warned. "What we imply today may be obvious tomorrow."

Possible Economic Impact

Just one day prior, ASARCO held a press conference on the grounds of the smelter to announce the findings of an economic impact study conducted through UTEP's Institute for Policy and Economic Development (IPED).

The study claims that the El Paso area will gain a total of 6.25 new jobs for every job created by the re-opening of ASARCO. With ASARCO planning to create over 300 new jobs at the smelter, the job creation spin-off would equal 1,819 new jobs throughout the region.

Additionally, the study states that regional economic output would increase by $1.159 billion and generate $73 million in new labor income.

The backdrop of the press conference, behind a vinyl banner saying "let's get to work", was a green area of land between the smelter entrance and I-10, not the actual operations facilities and towering smokestack.

Tom Aldrich, Vice President of Environmental Affairs for ASARCO, said the copper smelter would be a valuable asset to the El Paso community and not cause any harm.

"The community is not being asked to trade air quality for economic prosperity," Aldrich stated. "There is nothing about this smelter that we would expect to be any different."

Responding to claims that the smelter would drive away newer jobs in other industries, such as the technology field, Aldrich said he believes that ASARCO can coexist with those other industries. "Part of our labor pool we'll be looking at is the tech industry," he added.

But Mayor Cook disagrees that the economic impact of ASARCO re-opening would be a positive one.

"We could make a lot of money in El Paso by legalizing prostitution, but I don't think we want to take that bold step," Cook said during the special council meeting.

Danny Arrellano, a former employee at ASARCO for 24 years, agrees with Cook. He said the wages paid to workers is not something that will benefit the community.

"A lot of us came out sick," he said. To pay for medical bills associated with a blood disorder her claims is a result of working at ASARCO, Arrellano said he and other employees have had to sell a lot of the properties they have accumulated through the years.

"What did we gain," he asked.

Communities vs. Corporation

ASARCO officials, in response to the special city council meeting and the resolutions adopted by the city governments, claimed that the resolutions contained misleading and false information about the community's health.

According to Lairy Johnson, the plant's environmental manager, "air emissions from ASARCO have been scientifically proven to be safe and will not cause or contribute to air pollution in our community."

Johnson also stated that ASARCO is a "great place to work and all of the employees want clean air where they work, live and play."

He contends that the resolutions passed ignored the investigations conducted by local, state and environmental departments and other institutions.

But a point was clearly made at the special council meeting: the communities and their leaders do not want this industry in the middle of their cities.

Segura stated that the cities of El Paso, Sunland Park and Juarez must cooperate to resolve important issues because of their proximity. "We're forced and encouraged to work together because of our mere geography," he said.

Cook agreed that bi-national cooperation should be the aim of the three governments. "That should be the goal," he stated, "a day when we could truly live without borders.

Quicksilver Quandary

Mercury in aging chemical plants could end up in and on the hands of gold miners

Cheryl Hogue, Chemical & Engineering News

28th May 2007

WILL TONS OF MERCURY now housed in eight U.S. chemical plants eventually get into the hands of poverty-stricken people panning for gold in developing countries and then into rivers and the air?

The U.S. government, led by the Environmental Protection Agency, is aware that the marketplace forces of supply and demand could make this scenario into a reality. With a goal of preventing that from happening, policy analysts now are studying how best to manage domestic stocks of the neurotoxic metal.

As a start, the government is examining national and worldwide supply and demand trends for mercury. These trends form a complicated web. It connects a handful of U.S. chemical plants, domestic recyclers that help prevent mercury pollution in the U.S., industrial gold mines in the U.S., Chinese production of a key plastic material, and impoverished communities in the developing world.

Driving these interconnections is the price of gold, which rose from $260 to $725 per ounce between 2001 and 2006, according to a recent report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

Pioneer Chemical Production

Eight plants in the U.S. use mercury cells to produce chlorine gas and caustic soda. As they close, thousands of tons of the metal are expected to be recovered and sold on the world market.

Those soaring values have fostered a gold rush as increasingly more impoverished people in developing countries have turned to small-scale gold mining for a livelihood. Millions of these miners rely on quicksilver to separate grains of gold from small bits of sand and rock in pans or other small-scale equipment. The technique—which yields a gold-mercury amalgam from which the gold can later be extracted by heating—is easy, effective, and generally, cheap.

An estimated 10 million to 15 million small-scale miners around the world use mercury, according to Michael T. Bender, executive director of the Mercury Policy Project, a group promoting the elimination or reduction of the use of, exposure to, and trade of mercury. Up to half of these miners have symptoms of mercury poisoning, he said.

International aid agencies and charitable groups are working with small-scale gold miners in developing countries to promote separation techniques that are not mercury-based and thus are safer from the standpoint of health and less damaging to the environment. But the use of mercury is more widespread than the reach of these efforts.

"In most countries, mercury is readily available and relatively inexpensive to miners," according to the UNEP report on mercury. "In some cases, it is given for free, contingent on the recovered gold being sold to the mercury provider."

This largely unregulated flow of mercury is polluting waterways, land, and the miners themselves in South America, Asia, and Africa, and not just at mining sites. To sell the gold, the miners need to extract it from their amalgam, which is often done by heating in open pans. This practice releases elemental mercury to the atmosphere, exposing people nearby to toxic fumes. UNEP estimates that small-scale gold mining releases between 650 and 1,000 metric tons of mercury per year, accounting for about a third of all mercury releases to the environment from human activities.

Use of mercury in small-scale mining appears to be highest in China, which releases 200 to 250 metric tons into the atmosphere per year, the UNEP report says. Indonesia comes in second, with 100 to 150 metric tons of releases. Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Peru, the Philippines, Venezuela, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe each emit 10 to 30 metric tons per year.

SMALL-SCALE GOLD mining accounted for the largest single portion—1,000 metric tons, or about 30%—of global mercury demand in 2005, according to European Union figures. The world's second-largest user group-700 metric tons, or 20%-that year was manufacturers of vinyl chloride, which is a key monomeric building block for making polyvinyl chloride plastics.

China's vinyl chloride plants now consume about 600 metric tons of mercury per year, according to EPA. The Chinese facilities manufacture the monomer with an acetylene feedstock and a mercury catalyst. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), some mercury escapes to the atmosphere during the monomer production process.

China and the Kyrgyz Republic are the only two countries that still mine mercury. Much of the world's demand for mercury currently is supplied through recycling or as a by-product of mining for other metals. While demand for mercury is soaring in several developing countries for gold-mining purposes, it is declining dramatically in the U.S. and elsewhere in the industrialized world.

Between 1980 and 2001, U.S. mercury use fell from 2,225 to 271 metric tons per year, according to Maria J. Doa, director of EPA's National Program Chemicals Division. Accounting for this drop, she said at a stakeholder meeting on May 8, are limits on the amount of mercury in many types of batteries, elimination of mercury in paints, and closure or conversion of chemical plants that use mercury-containing electrolytic cells.

Mercury hasn't been mined as a primary commodity in the U.S. since 1990, Doa said, but the U.S. has significant privately held stocks of the metal. The largest pool of this mercury, according to EPA, is in eight chlor-alkali plants that employ an older industrial process that relies on the metal as a cathode to generate chlorine gas and sodium hydroxide from the electrolysis of a sodium chloride solution.

Of the eight U.S. mercury-cell plants, PPG Industries owns two, with facilities in Lake Charles, La., and New Martinsville, W.Va. Olin owns another two, in Charleston, Tenn., and Augusta, Ga. Others are Occidental Chemical, Muscle Shoals, Ala.; ERCO Worldwide (USA), Port Edwards, Wis.; Ashta Chemicals, Ashtabula, Ohio; and Pioneer, St. Gabriel, La.

These facilities together contain 2,368 metric tons of mercury, according to a 2005 report to EPA by the Chlorine Institute, a chemical industry group. In coming years, all these plants are expected to be shut down or converted to a process that does not use mercury, Doa said. Historically, mercury has been recovered from closed or converted chlor-alkali plants and sold on the commodity market, according to EPA. On the basis of today's prices on the world market, the mercury in those eight plants could fetch nearly $45 million.

Commodity mercury is bought and sold in steel flasks that are 4 inches in diameter and 12 inches high. Each one holds 76 lb of mercury. Twenty-nine flasks make up a metric ton of the liquid metal. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the price of a flask of mercury has gone up from $155 in 2000 to approximately $650 now.

If mercury from closed or converted chlor-alkali plants reaches the international market, it probably ends up in the developing world and in small-scale gold mining operations, according to UNEP.

Some closures and conversions already are in the works. PPG is in the process of converting its Lake Charles facility to a membrane technology that does not use mercury. OxyChem announced last year that it will close its mercury-cell plant in 2008. ERCO Worldwide is considering the conversion of its Wisconsin chlor-alkali plant to a mercury-free process, according to a company spokesman.

Not For Sale: US Military and DOE Are Storing Mercury

As it crafts a policy for managing commodity-grade mercury, the U.S. government is concerned primarily with what it calls nonfederal sources of the metal.

The government owns more than half the country's supply of mercury. But its stockpiles are expected to remain in storage and off the world market, at least for now.

The military and the Department of Energy together own about 5,642 metric tons of stockpiled mercury. The liquid metal was used in the 1950s and '60s to produce enriched lithium for atomic weapons. It is also a component of some electrical switches, measuring devices, and button-cell batteries.

The military has 4,436 metric tons of mercury in storage, according the Defense National Stockpile Center. The center maintains 2,617 metric tons in Somerville, N.J.; 1,262 metric tons in Warren, Ohio; and 557 metric tons in New Haven, Ind. It plans to consolidate these holdings at the Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada. The center stopped selling excess mercury in 1994, citing concerns about mercury's impact on the global environment.

DOE has 1,206 metric tons of mercury stockpiled in Oak Ridge, Tenn. In 2006, the department decided to store the metal rather than sell it.

The second-largest private U.S. source of mercury, after the chlor-alkali industry, is large-scale metal mining, especially for gold, silver, and copper, which produces mercury as a by-product, Doa said.

Joseph Pollara, chief environmental engineer of the Newmont Mining, explained that some ores of gold and other metals occur with the red mineral cinnabar, or mercury sulfide. When the ore is roasted, mercury is released, he said. At U.S. facilities, the quicksilver is captured in air pollution control equipment in the form of the mineral calomel, also known as mercurous chloride or dimercury dichloride.

ON AVERAGE, the U.S. produces about 255 metric tons of mercury per year, according to EPA. Some comes from the processing of calomel from mining operations, and some is recovered through the decommissioning of mercury cells at chlor-alkali plants or the processing of mercury-containing scrap, including thermometers and switches. Two U.S. facilities recover mercury and sell it on the world market, according to EPA.

As the U.S. government considers how it might manage nonfederal supplies of mercury in the face of a shifting global market for the troublesome element, it faces policy conundrums. It must determine whether or how it can continue to encourage domestic recycling and reclamation of the metal to prevent pollution at home while attempting to forestall releases of mercury elsewhere in the world. The government also is not eager to get into the mercury storage business, although the Departments of Defense and Energy have stockpiled the element for decades.

Meanwhile, the EU, home of dozens of aging mercury-cell chlor-alkali plants, is already moving to reduce the flow of mercury to world markets. Earlier this month, the Environment Committee of the EU Parliament called for a ban on exports of mercury starting Dec. 1, 2010, and proposed that the 12,000 metric tons of mercury in European chlor-alkali plants be stored in a shuttered mercury mine in Spain. In addition to elemental mercury, the committee wants to ban EU exports of cinnabar, calomel, and compounds with a mercury concentration above 5% by weight. A decision on that matter is anticipated in coming months.

Representatives of the chlorine, mining, and recycling industries as well as environmentalists and academics provided a variety of perspectives on what to do about mercury at EPA's stakeholder meeting. David Lennett, a senior adviser to NRDC on mercury policy, recommended that the U.S. government restrict exports of mercury and create a domestic storage facility for excess amounts of the metal. Art Dungan, president of the Chlorine Institute, added that any potential U.S. export ban must be predicated on a policy of what to do with excess mercury supply.

"We ought to keep it here," Lennett said. If domestic mercury supplies leave the U.S., mercury is likely to be released and end up tainting fish eaten by people around the world, he said. Doa noted that EPA is interested in exploring the possibility of storing mercury, but not having the federal government take possession of it.

It is unlikely that any private entity would store the metal without compensation, said Edward J. Balistreri, an assistant professor of economics and business at the Colorado School of Mines. "The federal government seems like the appropriate party" for carrying out this task, he concluded.

One possible way to move forward, Lennett suggested, would be to fund a government-owned storage facility for excess mercury through a tax on the use of mercury. This would put the burden on those who benefit from mercury-containing products rather than on taxpayers at large, he said. In response to that proposal, the Chlorine Institute's Dungan said a use tax might work for new mercury-containing products but would not help for older products and processes.

The mercury problem even shows up in one the most touted energy-efficiency success stories: compact fluorescent bulbs. A ban on U.S. exports of mercury could discourage the recycling of spent fluorescent and other light bulbs that contain the metal, said Raymond Graczyk, president of Northeast Lamp Recycling. The Connecticut firm processes defunct mercury-containing light bulbs from industrial complexes, hospitals, and other large-scale users of such bulbs.

In 1994, it cost between 80 and 90 cents to recycle a mercury-containing lamp, Graczyk said. The cost is now about 24 cents each. If a ban on mercury exports makes the recycling price rise to above $1.00 per bulb, "people will go back to trashing them" and mercury contamination will increase, he said.

Trying to manage the metal using a U.S. export ban would raise the price of mercury on the world market and depress it domestically, Balistreri said. Higher world prices would have the undesirable effect of making mercury mining economically attractive in the rest of the world, he said.

Countering that likelihood, however, Pollara pointed out that the International Council on Mining & Metals, a coalition of 15 of the world's largest mining companies, has committed to not opening new mercury mines. Pollara chairs the council's mercury working group.

Instead of mining the metal, China will generally buy elemental mercury on the world market when the price is less than $500 to $600 per flask, said Bruce Lawrence, president and owner of Bethlehem Apparatus of Hellertown, Pa. When the price rises higher than those figures, China tends to resume mining, said Lawrence, whose company for more than 30 years has recovered and purified mercury from waste, scrap, and chlor-alkali plants for resale.

As an incentive against mercury mining by China, the U.S. might offer to sell some of its excess mercury to the country, suggested Glenn Miller, professor of natural resources and environmental sciences at the University of Nevada, Reno.

With China's demand for mercury catalysts in the manufacture of vinyl chloride and with demand from small-scale gold mining in the developing world driving up the price of mercury, Dungan said, Miller's proposition could prove expensive.

Instead of banning exports, Balistreri said, the U.S. government could take a more economically efficient action by purchasing mercury on the world market at the lowest price available and then storing it. He suggested a tax on mercury exports to fund the purchases.

EPA will hold more public meetings on mercury in the coming months, said James Gulliford, the agency's assistant administrator for prevention, pesticides, and toxic substances. These will focus on the sources of mercury in the U.S., options for managing the metal, and the possibility of long-term storage. The agency will use the input as it drafts a report on managing the metal.

Bureaucratic goals aside, the issue that EPA and the U.S. government must ultimately resolve is whether poverty-stricken people in Asia, Africa, and South America who eke out a living mining gold will get mercury cheaply from growing excess supplies in the U.S.

A survey intended to guage opinions on who's mainly responsible for global warming suggests that Chinese and Indian may be more concerned about their own countries' global greenhouse emissions than those of the United States.

The biggest proportion of those who viewed US government policy as the biggest threat to the world's climate came from the European Union (23%) - with only 13% of US citizens themselves taking this view, and even fewer (12%) from China and India.

The survey was mainly taken of professionals and by email, therefore shouldn't be regarded as definitive.

But it makes you think...

Most Chinese, Indians Back Carbon Cuts - Survey

PlanetArk UK

8th June 2007

LONDON - Most Chinese and Indian people agree developed countries have the right to demand that emerging countries cut their carbon emissions, according to a survey by market research firm Global Market Insite.

Sixty-two percent of Chinese respondents and 63 percent of Indians said they agreed "it would be appropriate for developed countries to demand restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions from developing countries, such as China and India," despite their own governments rejecting mandatory caps.

Eighteen percent of the 14,188 respondents polled in 14 countries for this year's World Environment Review said US government policy was the biggest threat to the world's climate.

This included 13 percent of US citizens and 23 percent of people from European G8 member countries France, Germany, Italy and Britain.

Less than 12 percent of Chinese and Indians surveyed said US policy was the biggest threat to the environment.

Most of the respondents are married, university-educated professionals employed in a variety of sectors and living in cities. Half of the respondents were male.

World leaders from the G8 rich countries meeting in Germany on Thursday agreed to work towards "substantial" cuts in greenhouse gases but do not appear to have committed to any specific targets.

The United States has repeatedly rejected mandatory caps on its carbon emissions, as adopted by the European Union, arguing that it would be harmful to economic growth and pointing at rising emissions from developing countries like China and India.

But only 14 percent of those asked said they thought lack of action by developing countries to reduce their emissions was the biggest threat to the world's climate.

Although rising rapidly, per capita energy consumption and carbon dioxide production is much lower in China and India than in North America and Europe.

The Chinese government argues that global warming is the result of the pollution spewed out by the developed countries since the industrial revolution for over a century and that it is unfair to expect it to rein in its own industrialisation and economic growth to cut emissions.

The countries polled were Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, the UK and the United States.

The survey was conducted by email in May by Washington-based Global Market Insite, which provides online market intelligence solutions.



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