Ten senior US business leaders, including the heads of utility and chemical companies, have issued a direct challenge to President George Bush on climate change, publicly demanding the mandatory caps on carbon emissions that the White House has appeared to rule out of the President's State of the Union address tonight.
"We can and must take prompt action to establish a co-ordinated, economy-wide, market-driven approach to climate protection," the chief executives, from companies including Alcoa, DuPont, and Pacific Gas and Electric, say in an open letter to Mr Bush.
The move, which threatened to upstage the President ahead of his major annual setpiece speech to Congress, adds to the confusion of the global warming debate here. But it also underscores how the White House, long sceptical that the problem even existed, has become a mere bystander, as individual states and key lawmakers initiate action of their own.
Only confusion has emerged from the White House, with key advisers appearing to endorse a "cap-and-trade" system, only for that to be seemingly ruled out by Tony Snow, the Presidential spokesman.
President Bush has said that voluntary efforts, and the development of alternative energy sources, are the best approach.In the speech, Mr Bush is expected to dwell on health care reform, as pressure builds for some system that guarantees coverage for all.
The letter however declares that mandatory reductions are needed, and that "the cornerstone of this approach" should be a cap-and-trade system, whereby companies that exceed emissions limits should be forced to buy permits.