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Bush Refuses To Yield On Global Warming

President George W. Bush. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Claire Gallen
Washington (AFP) Jan 25, 2007
President George W. Bush refused to back down on his position on tackling global warming as he unveiled a new energy initiative this week that failed to convince environmentalists. Bush briefly discussed global warming during his annual State of the Union address to Congress Tuesday, proposing a plan to slash America's dependence on foreign oil by using new technologies.

The US leader called for reducing US gasoline consumption by 20 percent over 10 years, mainly by raising the supply of alternative fuels like ethanol.

"America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil," Bush told a Congress now controlled by opposition Democrats.

"And these technologies will help us be better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change," he said.

But environmentalists were unmoved by Bush's speech, saying the United States needed to adopt policies capping emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

"The international community should abandon all hope, once and for all, that President Bush will ever really change course on climate change," said Greenpeace USA executive director John Passacantando.

The Worldwatch Institute, a Washington-based environmental research organization, said Bush's proposals "left the White House well behind the growing public and business momentum for an overhaul of US energy policy."

"For those who were hoping that President Bush would announce a u-turn in climate policy, his glancing reference to 'the challenge of climate change' was a disappointment," Worldwatch said in a statement.

The independent group noted that his speech came a day after a coalition of US companies, including Alcoa, General Electric and DuPont, urged the government to set mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions and trading in carbon emissions permits.

Bush has said he does not support mandatory government emission caps on US industry, and his administration in 2001 withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol, which seeks to curb greenhouse gases. He has called the pact "unrealistic."

On Wednesday, Bush said new technologies were ushering in a "post-Kyoto" era on how to feed energy-hungry economies on a climate-friendly diet of alternatives to oil.

"We can get beyond the pre-Kyoto era with a post-Kyoto strategy, the center of which is new technologies," he said in Wilmington, Delaware.

Bush's State of the Union speech came on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an annual meeting of global government and business leaders with global warming a central issue.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who opened the Davos meeting Wednesday, called Bush's plan to reduce gasoline consumption "very sensible," but she pressed Washington to commit to a global pact on curbing carbon emissions.

The Worldwatch Institute said Bush's proposals "lacked both the breadth and the specificity" to cope with global warming and energy security, leaving it up to the US Congress to lead the way.

"It is up to Congress to pass the kind of strong new legislation that will allow the United States to catch up with the policies being enacted by other nations-and by many US states," the group said.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican like Bush, has set targets aimed at slashing the state's carbon-dioxide emissions by 25 percent by the year 2020 and by another 80 percent by 2050.

Democrats, who won control of Congress in November elections against Bush's Republicans, have taken steps to make global warming a top legislative agenda.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who took the lower chamber's gavel in early January, announced last week the creation of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

"The science of global warming and its impact is overwhelming and unequivocal," she said last week, adding that the issue was given short shrift during the dozen years that Bush's Republicans controlled Congress.

Jeff Bingaman, the Democratic chairman of the Senate's energy committee, said Tuesday: "By essentially ducking the issue of taking a mandatory, economy-wide approach to the problem, the president has missed a real opportunity."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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