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Bush Again Fails to Provide Leadership on Clean Energy and Global Warming Policy

January 29, 2008

Bush Again Fails to Provide Leadership on
Clean Energy and Global Warming Policy

In his eighth and final State of the Union address, President Bush again delivered empty rhetoric instead of real solutions to curb global warming pollution. The president declared his commitment to lead an effort to reach a post-2012 international climate agreement, but this declaration was disingenuous at best. In December, the U.S. delegation to the UN climate summit in Bali, Indonesia, served only to obstruct negotiations intended to lay the groundwork for a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol. While the Bush-appointed negotiators ultimately agreed to the “Bali Action Plan,” they did so only after quantitative emission reduction targets were relegated to just a footnote in the final deal.

In order to avoid the worst effects of global warming, the U.S. must implement mandatory limits on heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, President Bush appears resolved to passing that task on to his successor while continuing his failed policy of promoting only voluntary measures.

The president pointed to the increased fuel economy and appliance efficiency standards included in the Energy Independence and Security Act passed in December 2007 as an example of his administrations efforts to confront the dual challenges of climate change and energy insecurity. He also called on Congress to empower American researchers and entrepreneurs to “pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology.” However, multiple veto threats from the White House forced lawmakers to remove from the final energy bill two critical provisions -- a nationwide renewable electricity standard and tax incentives for clean energy technologies -- that would have accomplished those very goals. President Bush also failed to mention that on the very same day that he signed the energy bill into law, his appointed EPA Administrator, Stephen Johnson, denied a waiver that would have granted California and seventeen other states the authority to implement vehicle emission standards that would achieve greater fuel economy improvements and emission reductions than the new 35 mpg standard passed by Congress. 

The president again misleadingly labeled nuclear power and coal as clean while denying the public health and environmental threats inherent to these nonrenewable energy sources. The risks of catastrophic reactor accidents and the harmful pollutants emitted by existing “clean coal” technology far outweigh any potential benefits from these costly and dangerous sources of energy.

While a major shift in White House policy regarding mandatory emission limits is unlikely, there are a number steps that President Bush can take to start the U.S. down the path to a renewable energy economy during his final year in office. Most immediately, he should support the inclusion of tax credits and other incentives for clean, renewable energy technologies in the economic stimulus package. In addition, the president should instruct the EPA and other federal agencies to stop blocking efforts by states seeking to take the lead in confronting the global warming challenge.  

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