Lukewarm response to Bush statement on climate change

Posted: 24 January 2007

President Bush won lukewarm praise, or outright condemnation, from around the world, following his comments on climate change in his State of the World address this week.

Bush proposed that gasoline consumption in the United States should be reduced by 20 per cent in the next 10 years. This could be done, he said, by tougher fuel economy standards and mandatory increases in the use of ethanol and other fuel substitutes.

Karsten Voigt, who co-ordinates German relations with the United States is quoted by Associated Press as saying that the president's remarks would be generally welcomed in Europe. "It doesn't change our disagreement about Kyoto (protocol on greenhouse gases) but it enables us to co-operate... on concrete methods against climate change and on alterantive energy sources."

And Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretatry of the UN Climate Change Convention, told reporters in Tokyo that Bush's statemens were encouraging. "I see a growing sense of urgency around the world about climate change" he said.

Environmetnal organisations were, however, universally dismissive. Friends of the Earth's International climate coordinator Catherine Pearce said: "The President's State of the Union address does little to suggest that the Bush Administration is prepared to play its role in tackling climate change. His weak green light to renewable fuels, refusal to cut fossil fuel subsidies and his call for further imports, completely undermines last year's recognition of the need to end the nation's oil addiction.

Targets needed

"As leader of the world's top polluter Mr Bush should face up to his nation's global responsibilities and set targets for cutting US emissions. But President Bush appears unwilling to change direction and take urgent action to combat the devastating economic and environmental threats posed by climate change."

Friends of the Earth wants President Bush to set targets for legally-binding substantial cuts in US carbon dioxide emissions and to back international efforts to combat climate change - such as the Kyoto Protocol - and stop disrupting international agreements to tackle the problem.

Don Henry, executive director of the Australian Conservaton Foundation was equally critical. He found the president's actions "profoundly weak, although at long last the president is acknowledging that the issue is a serious challenge."

The Worldwatch Institute in Washingtn said the proposals left te White House well behind the growing public and business momentum for an overhaul of US energy policy. "The proposals lacked both the breadthand the specificity needed to cope with the twin problems of energysecurity and global warming, and leaves national leadership on the issue up to Congress" Worldwatch said.

Alternative fuels

In his speech Mr Bush said "For too long our Nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists - who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments ... and raise the price of oil ... and do great harm to our economy. "It is in our vital interest to diversify America's energy supply - and the way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power - by even greater use of clean coal technology ... solar and wind energy ... and clean, safe nuclear power.

"We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles, and expand the use of clean diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel. We must continue investing in new methods of producing ethanol - using everything from wood chips, to grasses, to agricultural wastes.

"We have made a lot of progress, thanks to good policies here in Washington and the strong response of the market. And now even more dramatic advances are within reach. Tonight, I ask Congress to join me in pursuing a great goal. Let us build on the work we have done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 per cent in the next ten years - when we do that we will have cut our total imports by the equivalent of three-quarters of all the oil we now import from the Middle East.

"To reach this goal, we must increase the supply of alternative fuels, by setting a mandatory Fuels Standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017 - and this is nearly five times the current target. At the same time, we need to reform and modernise fuel economy standards for cars the way we did for light trucks - and conserve up to eight and a half billion more gallons of gasoline by 2017.

"Achieving these ambitious goals will dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but it's not going to eliminate it. So as we continue to diversify our fuel supply, we must also step up domestic oil production in environmentally sensitive ways. And to further protect America against severe disruptions to our oil supply, I ask Congress to double the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

"America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. 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."

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