Saturday was Earth Day. I posted a link to the Earth Day Network where there was a thoughtful essay entitled “Climate Change Solutions: What you can do right now.”
Yesterday, in his weekly radio address, President Bush used Earth Day as his theme. Did he take Earth Day as a chance to discuss the real environmental issues facing us, like climate change? No. Did he discuss critical government policy initiatives like setting mandatory caps on CO2 or setting meaningful fuel-efficiency standards for cars? Of course not. The Bush Administration has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol that would have done both.
Instead, he said the following:
Saturday is Earth Day, and many of you are asking how we can meet our growing energy needs while protecting our environment. The key is technology. So I have proposed the Advanced Energy Initiative to change the way we power our homes, businesses, and cars. I will visit the California Fuel Cell Partnership to take a closer look at hydrogen fuel cells, one of the exciting new technologies supported by my initiative. These fuel cells have the potential to revolutionize the way we power our cars by giving us vehicles that will emit no pollution and will be more efficient than gas-powered cars.
Deconstructing this one paragraph says volumes about Bush and his hypocritical and dishonest leadership style.
1) In the the opening sentence he twists the focus of Earth Day to be about meeting our growing energy needs. Unlike Al Gore, Bush refuses to talk honestly to the American people. Real leaders address the American people about real problems. In this administration, environmental crises are dealt with just like Iraq, the deficit, Katrina ( i.e. “progress is being made” and “We have a plan”).
2) The phrase “…many of you are asking…” is such a transparent and feeble rhetorical device that it is laughable. If there is one thing we know about Bush, it is that his handlers have done everything possible to insulate and isolate him from any questions that might be asked by the “many.” In fact, many of us are asking what he plans on doing about global warming or price gouging by oil companies. Somehow he hasn’t heard those questions.
3) “The key is technology.” This is classic sleight of hand. For Bush this is not a problem where government might play an active role in providing solutions. Technology (read corporate America) will solve the problem for us. There is no hint that the average American can or should play any part in solving the problem. We are not asked to take any responsibility or make any sacrifice. Instead, we are expected to remain passive, powerless and silent. This is the exact opposite of the original intent of Earth Day.”
4) “hydrogen fuel cells” are the answer. Rather than discuss solutions that might have an immediate impact on “America’s addiction to oil,” like alternative energy sources or energy conservation, Bush focuses on a “solution” that all experts agree is decades away from implementation. For example, the Natural Resources Defense Council says:
Hydrogen fuel could play a promising long-term role in solving these problems if it is used in high efficiency, non-polluting fuel cells and if it is made from non-polluting energy sources. Hydrogen fuel cells and fuel sources, however, face significant technology, cost, and deployment barriers. A practical assessment of these barriers reveals that it will take at least two decades before hydrogen and fuel cells can begin to make a significant contribution to our energy security, cleaner air, and a safer climate.
Again, the pattern is clear. Like Iraq, like the deficit, solutions to immediate problems are to be found in a hazy and distant future. A future where the “Great Decider” and “Heck of a job Scotty” McClellan will be “rocking in chairs in Texas and talking about the good old days.”