Blog Post

Bush Maps Murky Climate Change Plan

Addressing the nation from the verdant White House Rose Garden, President Bush delivered an agenda-shifting speech today on carbon emission controls. The take-home message was that Bush has set a goal of stopping emissions growth by 2025. While the president failed to offer any specifics as to how we get there, “technology” and “clean energy” were prominent themes.

Democrats and the blogosphere were quick to react. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi blasted the president for blocking serious climate change initiatives for the previous seven years. Andrew Revkin at the NYTimes’ Dot Earth blog called it a “super-slow-motion” reversal, while the WSJ’s Environmental Capital blog summed up the remarks as “a shift in U.S. climate policy — sort of.”

Bush’s speech today was more of a reaction to impending carbon regulation and pressure the White House is feeling from lobbyists who would rather see one federal framework rather than a patchwork of state regulations. He called the currently pending legislation the “wrong approach” and did not dial back the rhetoric when explaining it could have a “crippling effect on our entire economy.”

While not a big fan of specifics, President Bush did speak on the two biggest impediments to large-scale renewable power generation in the U.S. — unstable regulatory and incentive systems and transmission lines. Bush advocated long-lasting, carbon-weighted incentives that would make clean energy competitive relative to carbon-intensive energy sources. By asking that they be “long-lasting incentives,” Bush was highlighting the political myopia involved with the renewable energy tax incentives, whose shelf lives have ranged from just one to two years for the past decade, requiring constant battles to have them renewed.

He also said “advanced interstate transmission lines will be needed” to meet his goal for 2025. This sort of infrastructure investment is necessary, but Bush didn’t elaborate on where the funds for it would come from.

Cleantech.com spoke to several reps from the industry regarding the President’s speech, calling the oratory “too little, too late.” The entire thing boils down to what can the President actual accomplish. “The president may need to prove his words with legislative action to satisfy the cleantech industry,” David Ehrlich of Cleantech.com writes.

We’ll see how much pressure this waning president can put on this issue. With the Democrats in control of Congress and the Republican party distancing itself from Bush, finding allies on the Hill to make these goals a reality might be difficult. And with three eager presidential candidates all pushing for carbon markets, it might be best to thank Bush for his kind words, but nicely ask him to sit down as we’re hoping Congress and the next president will fix this.