President George W. Bush leaves behind a notorious record: two wars, the near collapse of our financial system, rising unemployment, and turning a budget surplus into the largest deficit in history. But perhaps his longest-lasting legacy will be his fervent opposition to binding reductions of global warming pollution and his implementation of big oil, coal, and utility companies’ agendas to debilitate pollution safeguards.
On President Bush’s first day in office, January 20, 2001, he blocked standards to dramatically reduce arsenic allowed in drinking water. Unfortunately, he was just getting started. On March 13, 2001, he publicly broke his campaign promise to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from coal-fired power plants. On May 17, Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney released their energy plan that primarily focused on drilling for oil, burning coal, and building nuclear power plants, all while paying lip service to clean energy.
The federal courts and Congress thwarted many of these and the dozens of other Bush environmental assaults, while others are now in place. It may take years to undo the damage wrought by the oil men running the government. Given their hostility to clean energy, clear skies, and greenhouse gas reductions, it’s no surprise that global warming and air pollution worsened under Bush’s watch. Global warming pollution increased by 6.6 percent, and oil dependence grew by 10 percent.
President-elect Barack Obama and the 111th Congress have the responsibility to reverse course. Early indications suggest that they plan to do that, first by including investments in clean energy in the economic stimulus and recovery package.
For more on CAP’s energy and environmental policies for the new administration, please see:
- Top 10 Energy and Environment Priorities for the Obama Administration and 111th Congress by Daniel J. Weiss and Alexandra Kougentakis