Physicians for Social Responsibilities' Response to President Bush's
State of the Union Energy Initiatives
In his address to the nation earlier this week, President Bush unveiled
what appeared to be a number of broad and ambitious new energy
initiatives aimed at reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
Unfortunately for American consumers, the new proposals are too little,
too late from an administration that often talks about diversifying our
energy portfolio, but has so far failed to craft policies that actually
move the nation toward energy independence. The time for talk is long
past. What we need now is action.
While President Bush pledged to replace over 75 percent of our Middle
Eastern oil imports by 2025, that achievement would constitute only an
8.25 percent decrease in total oil use over 19 years. Moreover, a day
after Bush gave his address, his Energy Secretary, Samuel Bodman told
reporters "he didn't mean it literally," and went on to explain that
because oil is a "freely traded global commodity... it would be very
difficult to reduce imports from any single region."
President Bush's promise to increase funding for renewable energy and
alternative fuels was also significantly less than meets the eye.
According to Dan Reicher, an assistant energy secretary for renewable
fuels and conservation under President Clinton, the administration's
proposed funding increases "would barely get renewable-energy funding
back to where it was at the end of [the last] administration."
Additionally, though Bush proposed increased funding for solar energy
research, this expansion would bring total spending on solar energy to
just $148 million--less than it was in 1980 and an amount dwarfed by the
$3 billion that California will be spending on its own solar energy
initiative this year alone.
The most important part of the President's State of the Union address was
not what it included, but what it left out. While investment in renewable
energy and alternative fuels would be an important step in the right
direction, the President gave little attention to the most effective
tools for reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil-conservation and energy
efficiency. Though conservation and increases in energy efficiency and
fuel economy are likely to have the greatest impact on our oil imports
and total oil demand, the President refused to support initiatives
mandating cleaner, more efficient cars and trucks.
Moreover, throughout the State of the Union speech, President Bush never
mentioned climate change or global warming, suggesting that he does not
take seriously one of the gravest threats to human society. While the
rest of the world moves forward in its efforts to reduce global
greenhouse gas emissions, the Bush administration continues to oppose
mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions while it threatens to silence
respected climate scientists like James E. Hansen, Ph.D., director of
NASA's respected Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
President Bush was right to acknowledge America's addiction to oil. His
vision for how we can overcome this addiction, however, is wrong. America
needs cleaner, safer, renewable energy sources to reduce our dependence
on oil and other fuel sources that pollute our air and threaten our
national security. And though the President mentioned nuclear power,
that's no solution either. If the Chernobyl disaster and the meltdown at
Three Mile Island are not enough of a deterrent to nuclear energy, the
threat of a nuclear weapon in the hands of a terrorist regime certainly
eliminate nuclear power from the list of viable energy sources.
Through conservation and the use of existing technologies, we already
have the capacity to greatly boost our energy efficiency, reduce our
emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, and decrease our dependence
on foreign oil. We know what works and we're all in this together. It's
time to get started.