Democrats Skeptical of Bush Global Warming Initiative

Posted April 16, 2008 at 4:57pm

President Bush on Wednesday announced a “new national goal” of stopping the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, a move questioned by Congressional Democrats quick to point out the president’s poor track record on combating climate change.

Bush’s announcement comes a day before a climate change meeting in Paris between the world’s major polluting countries.

During Wednesday’s Rose Garden speech, Bush said he has spent the last seven years putting the nation on a path “to slow, stop and eventually reverse the growth of our greenhouse gas emissions.” His new national goal “builds on the solid foundation that we have in place,” he said.

But Democratic Congressional leaders were quick to criticize the plan, questioning the president’s sudden interest in combating global warming with only eight months left in office.

As part of his plan, the president said he will seek expanded use of emissions-free nuclear power and employ new technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

Bush also said he will push a mix of newly enacted mandates, and he highlighted a new international accord between 17 countries to phase out potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons.

“Many are concerned about the effect of climate change on our environment. Many are concerned about the effect of climate change policies on our economy. I share these concerns, and I believe they can be sensibly reconciled,” Bush said.

But Democrats were skeptical that Bush means business.

Bush has spent his entire presidency “denying the seriousness of the climate crisis and delaying tough action to save the planet,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “With just nine months left in his term, the White House has already made clear that the president’s announcement today will not reverse his record on global warming before he leaves office.”

Pelosi highlighted efforts by Bush to obstruct states, such as California, seeking to take tough action against global warming. The president has not used his regulatory power, via the Environmental Protection Agency, to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, she said.

Democratic lawmakers have also pushed for cap-and-trade legislation as a way to begin limiting emissions, but Pelosi added that Bush has said he will “reject all legislative efforts currently underway.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) chalked up Bush’s speech to “words without action.” He questioned when Bush would work with Congress on substantive solutions to climate change, such as requiring immediate emissions reductions and passing legislation with the level of emission reductions recommended by climate scientists.

The president’s plan is “worse than doing nothing — it is the height of irresponsibility,” asserted Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). It would have the country “stand by while greenhouse gases reach dangerous levels and threaten America and the world.”

Jim Connaughton, Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality at the White House, defended the president’s plan as being based on “realistic goals.”

“It’s not focused on fancy rhetoric that doesn’t lead to results. We have a renewable fuel mandate that is 50 percent more aggressive than Europe’s. They don’t even come close,” he said.

Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke blasted Bush’s proposal as being little more than “a thinly disguised attempt to derail global warming solutions currently moving in Congress.”

Beinecke praised legislation by Sens. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.) that would reduce emissions by 25 percent to 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2025, which, she said, is in line with what scientists say is needed. That Lieberman-Warner bill is set for a vote in June.

“The Lieberman-Warner bill would provide a strong start on all three of these key elements of a responsible policy. The president should be leading, not getting in the way,” Beinecke said.

At least one right-leaning policy group was relieved that Bush’s proposal didn’t go further.

“President Bush’s global warming proposals could have been worse,” said Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at Competitive Enterprise Institute. “But it was still a pointless speech that was unnecessary.”