President Obama on Tuesday laid out his intentions for sweeping changes in how Americans use energy, conceding it will not be easy or popular, but noting that he wants the U.S. to participate in talks on the successor to the United Nations' Kyoto Protocol.
"There will be discussions in Copenhagen at the end of this year," Obama told a group of Turkish college students at a town hall meeting in Istanbul on Tuesday. "And what we want to do is to prepare an agenda both in the United States and work internationally so that we can start making progress on these issues."
Obama conceded that it will be costly as well as difficult to get the U.S. Congress to tax all carbon emissions from power plants and refineries -- part of a long term plan to cap the total amount of carbon emissions, then impose steady reductions over time. The problem, as the president said, is that plan would force American factories and utilities to engage in massive and expensive changes.
"If you say to a power plant, you have to produce energy in a different way, and that costs them money, then they want to pass that cost on to consumers, which means everybody's electricity prices go up -- and that is something that is not very popular," he said.
During his presidential campaign, Obama said utility bills would "skyrocket" beginning in 2012 when the policy would take effect. That's the same year the Kyoto Protocol expires and the document to come out of talks with the U.N. Climate Change Conference would go into effect.
Diplomats preparing for this fall's conference in Denmark are suggesting rolling back emissions to 40 to 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, which would devastate the U.S. economy.
The last international effort to reduce emissions was the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, which President Clinton signed but the Senate voted 95 to 0 against ratifying, a sign for Clinton not to even consider it because China and India, the two biggest developing nations, were not included.
It's unclear whether China and India are willing to reduce their emissions this time around. China now is passing the United States as the world's greatest source of emissions, and that leaves a huge question hanging over the future of climate negotiations.
Back in the U.S., Obama hopes to have something on the table from Congress before the Copenhagen talks. In hopes of getting a deal, the administration and Democratic leaders in Congress promise to reimburse families and industry for increased utility bills but the details of how and to what extent remain sketchy.
When one student in Turkey asked Obama if he's really different from his predecessor, or just a different face, Obama responded, "When it comes to climate change, George Bush didn't believe in climate change. I do believe in climate change, I think it's important."
However, former President Bush started talking about emissions and climate change back in 2001, and devoted increasing amounts of funding to possible solutions. Just last year, he said the nation was on a path to slow, stop and eventually reverse the growth of emissions.
"I have put our nation on a path to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of our greenhouse gas emissions. In 2002, I announced our first step: to reduce America's greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent through 2012. I'm pleased to say that we remain on track to meet this goal even as our economy has grown 17 percent," Bush said.
But with the economy now contracting, climate change may have to sit on a back burner.
FOX News' Jim Angle contributed to this report.