Bush and the Environment

BUSH AND THE ENVIRONMENT….Gregg Easterbrook has an article in the New Republic today that provides a nice summary of some recommendations from an environmental think tank. But his lead is inexplicable:

John Kerry ran on a platform that called for dramatic changes in United States energy policy, and George W. Bush ran on a platform that called for keeping the energy status quo. Bush won, yet my guess is that change will soon win on energy policy. Too many trends are worrisome. To name a few: United States dependence on Persian Gulf oil keeps rising, greenhouse gas emissions keep rising, scientific indicators of artificially triggered climate change keep getting stronger, mega SUVs keep proliferating and damaging our civic space by causing ever-more road rage, and natural gas supplies are perilously close to becoming a national problem. Clinging to the status quo on energy policy is not attractive.

He’s right about these trends, but what on earth makes him think Bush is going to respond to any of this stuff? Alan Greenspan, Mr. Tax Cut of 2001, is now publicly warning that we need to balance the budget, and Paul Volcker thinks there’s a 75% chance that Bush’s policies will lead to an economic disaster within five years. Despite this, Bush has shown exactly zero interest in changing his economic direction. In fact, increasing the deficit by making his tax cuts permanent and privatizing Social Security is front and center in his 2005 agenda.

The same is true of environmental policy. There are three basic recommendations in the think tank report and, as Easterbrook points out, all three are things Bush opposes. The first is a higher gasoline tax, which everyone knows is a nonstarter. The second is higher mileage standards, which Bush also opposes. Third is a cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide, something Bush actually went out of his way to change his mind on after first supporting it during the 2000 campaign.

I’d love to see us make some headway on this stuff. But expecting George Bush to lead the way is just wishful thinking.