The Bush Air Quality Record

THE BUSH AIR QUALITY RECORD….Can someone please tell me why Gregg Easterbrook continues to claim that the Bush administration is dedicated to improving air quality? His writing on the subject has gotten pathological.

Today, he first makes a claim he’s made repeatedly before:

But then again, Bush has already imposed much stricter antipollution standards for diesel fuel and diesel engines…and the media simply pretend these advances don’t exist, in order to sustain the preferred script of Bush “undoing” clean-air policy.

But as Easterbrook must well know, these “stricter antipollution standards for diesel fuel and diesel engines” were implemented by the Clinton administration. Bush’s only contribution was that he didn’t overturn them.

Today’s news, which he calls “yet another clean-air achievement for the Bush administration,” is that the EPA has finally released a list of counties that are out of compliance with new, stricter, air quality regulations. But once again, as even Easterbrook admits, the regulations themselves were written by the Clinton administration. Bush’s only contribution was that he didn’t overturn them.

Easterbrook is right that air quality has been getting better for the past 30 years, and he at least has a defensible argument when he complains that the media doesn’t always make this clear. (Although I’m not sure why he specifically picks on this New York Times article, which makes exactly that point: “Since passage of the 1970 Clean Air Act, the country’s air is significantly cleaner, but scientific research continues to ratchet down the amount of pollution that is considered healthy to breathe.”)

But when he pretends that the Bush administration can claim credit for any of this, it just defies belief. Bush’s record includes keeping the new source rules for power plants as loose as possible, support for ANWR drilling, weaker enforcement of existing regulations, a proposed cap-and-trade scheme for mercury emissions, and no action whatsoever on greenhouse gases ? action he promised to take during the 2000 campaign.

Why does Easterbrook continue to claim that Bush has a sterling clean air record without telling his readers that he’s done virtually nothing except leave Clinton’s rules in place? Is it the soft bigotry of low expectations? Or something else?

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation