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Bush Pushes Environment Moves,
but Still Draws Ire

by Deborah Zabarenko, Reuters
Environmental News Network, October 10, 2006

WASHINGTON -- He's set up the world's largest protected marine reserve, raised air pollution standards and pledged to end damaging fishing, but President Bush still draws environmentalists' ire for his stance on global warming.

Ecologically minded critics view Bush's many "green" initiatives as incremental steps -- not the sort of bold action they say is needed to combat global climate change.

"It would be like paying attention to giving your loved ones a good manicure when they need medicine and operations for major illnesses," said David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

This year has seen the Bush administration promoting numerous environmental plans, most recently by announcing last week that the United States will work to eliminate destructive fishing practices like bottom trawling.

In September, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled new proposed air quality standards that the agency's chief proclaimed were the toughest in U.S. history. Environmentalists said the standards fell short of what scientists -- including EPA's own experts -- recommended as safe.

In June, Bush consulted with such boldface environmental names as underwater explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau -- Jacques Cousteau's son -- and marine biologist Sylvia Earle to set up the massive Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, the world's biggest ocean reserve.

Doniger and others were appreciative but ultimately unimpressed.


"Who could be against setting aside a Hawaiian park?" Doniger asked rhetorically in a telephone interview. "But these are safe, second-tier issues that don't offend any of the industries that they care about."

These industries, Doniger said, include coal, oil, auto making and electric power.

In his 2004 re-election campaign, Bush got more than $4.7 million from the energy industry, $4.8 million from the transportation industry, $4.9 million from agribusiness and $33.8 million from the finance, insurance and real estate industries, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which keeps track of federal election statistics.

Brendan Bell of the Sierra Club also cited Bush's ties to oil, autos and utilities as helping to shape what he said was an "atrocious" environmental policy.

"The Bush administration on every issue has made it an art to say what the public wants to hear and do the opposite," Bell said by telephone.

He cited the 2003 Healthy Forests Restoration Act, which he said aided in cutting down trees. The official White House Web site,, said the plan was meant to cut "the risk of catastrophic fires by thinning dense undergrowth and brush in priority locations."

Bush's public stand on global warming has evolved since he took office in 2001. Initially, he noted the phenomenon of global climate change but questioned whether the change was caused by human activities or was due to natural cycles.

By July 2006, through, Bush said he accepted that "an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans is contributing to the problem" of global warming.

In his first year as president, Bush withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions that spur global warming. Bush said the agreement was "unrealistic" and would hurt U.S. workers, offering an alternative plan offering incentives for a voluntary cut in emissions.

U.S. action on global warming is key to solving the problem, according to Michael Oppenheimer, an environmental expert at Princeton University.

"Until the U.S. acts, it is unlikely that developing countries will begin to deal with the problem," Oppenheimer said in a Web chat with reporters last week. "Unless the big developing countries, as well as the U.S. and Europe, start limiting emissions significantly over the next 15 years or so, we will have no chance to meet such an objective."

Deborah Zabarenko, Reuters
Bush Pushes Environment Moves, but Still Draws Ire
Environmental News Network, October 10, 2006

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