U.S. Energy Policy Begins to Shift
In his sixth State of the Union address, U.S. President George W. Bush renewed his call to increase his country's energy independence and acknowledged "the serious challenge of global climate change," a topic that his administration has largely ignored since taking power in 2001. With two years remaining in a presidential term that will be defined by the grim realities of the conflict in Iraq, Bush used his annual address to Congress as an attempt to salvage a domestic agenda. No longer aided by a Republican-controlled Congress, Bush finds himself facing a Democratic Party that has vowed to move forward on domestic issues.
Anticipation of a bold plan to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign energy and combat global warming mounted in the days leading up to the president's address, since Congress pledged to tackle global warming and a group of C.E.O.'s from major U.S. companies pressed Bush to address environmental degradation. Bush called for a 20 percent reduction in U.S. gasoline consumption in ten years, the doubling of the capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and increased research for clean energy sources such as clean coal, solar and wind energy, nuclear power, biodiesel and ethanol.
He failed, however, to endorse mandatory limits on carbon emissions, instead seeking a market-based solution centered on technological progress. "The president has always believed when it comes to climate change that the best way to achieve reductions is through innovation and to figure out ways to come up with energy sources that are going to meet our economy's constant demand for energy and at the same time do it in a way that's going to be friendly for the environment," said White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.
Washington Considers Global Warming
Bush, in explaining his 2001 decision to not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, said, "America's unwillingness to embrace a flawed treaty should not be read by our friends and allies as any abdication of responsibility. To the contrary, my administration is committed to a leadership role on the issue of climate change." The Bush administration, however, has largely failed to live up to these promises. The United States consumes approximately one quarter of world energy supplies and produces the same amount of carbon emissions, and yearly emissions have steadily increased since 2001.
While acknowledging that the planet is getting warmer, the White House has yet to take any action to limit pollution or energy consumption; it has downplayed and censored scientific studies that attribute global warming to human activity; and it continues to maintain that ratifying Kyoto would have disastrous results for the U.S. economy. Bush is also highly critical of Kyoto's exemption for the rapidly expanding economies of China and India.
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