Bush clean-tech plan gets mixed reviews

The $2 billion worldwide fund highlighted during Monday's State of the Union speech was called both a landmark proposal and an outdated approach.

Tim Sloan/AP
President George W. Bush, with Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi behind him, delivers the State of the Union address on Capitol Hill.

After seven years in office, President Bush's positions on energy and climate change are clear: Emphasize increased energy supplies over conservation, favor voluntary steps to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, oppose international efforts to force changes in national policy, and make sure nothing puts too much stress on the economy.

All this was evident in his State of the Union speech Monday.

There was one new proposal: a $2 billion fund that would be disbursed over the next three years to help developing nations purchase new technologies. The Environmental News Service reports:

"Along with contributions from other countries, this fund would increase and accelerate the deployment of all forms of cleaner, more efficient technologies, and help leverage substantial private-sector capital by making clean energy projects more financially attractive."

Mr. Bush's speech received mixed reviews from environmental groups, some of whom called his "voluntary efforts to curb global warming an old approach that would not work," reports Reuters. It quoted the National Wildlife Federation:

"In the fight against global warming, the science is clear: the path to avoid catastrophic climate change starts with mandatory limits on global warming pollution ... a voluntary approach adds up to lots of rhetoric and little actual change."

But Phil Clapp of the Pew Environmental Group called the president's proposal for a worldwide clean technology fund "a major landmark in addressing global warming." ABC News quotes Mr. Clapp as saying:

"Still, $2 billion is a very small amount of money given the scale of the problem. China alone is investing over $100 billion a year through its state-owned enterprises in new energy projects and resources, mostly in oil and coal-fired electricity. The president's proposed fund must be accompanied by a strong new climate treaty to direct global business investment into clean energy technologies."

While the president called for "an international agreement that has the potential to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases," he continued to insist that major developing countries would have to be included. US News and World Report added:

"Since Bush, while not naming China and India by name, also reiterated his oft-made point that the United States won't agree to a global climate deal that doesn't include those fast-growing economies, the clean-tech fund is an acknowledgment that maybe we should lend a hand if we want them to get on board, seeing that we expanded our own economy with the same cheap, dirty coal and lots and lots of oil."

Not surprising, there were harsh responses from some Democrats. Rep. Brian Baird (D) of Washington, said Bush "should have shown bold leadership by calling on all Americans to cut their energy consumption and carbon generation by 20 percent in 20 weeks." The Associated Press reports:

"That would immediately put money into people's pockets through savings on energy, and it would have promptly cut energy prices. It would also have shown the world that we are truly serious and willing to take the lead on stopping climate change..."

The official Democratic response, from Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, was more conciliatory. The Washington Post reports:

"Americans 'are not nearly as divided as our rancorous politics might suggest,' she said. She repeatedly called on Bush to 'join us' and 'get to work' on such matters as energy security, global warming, and the United States' worldwide reputation."

The president's speech came on the heels of a call from nearly 200 American climate scientists, policy experts, and mayors for the president to take stronger action to combat global warming. In their "State of the Climate" declaration, the group wrote:

"Global climate change now threatens not only the environment, but also our national security, our economic stability, and our public health and safety. We can no longer discuss the State of the Union without assessing the state of the nation's climate."
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