George W. Bush’s environmental record can be dummied down to one simple word: devastating.
Not only has President Bush gutted numerous environmental laws–including the Clean Air and Water Acts–he has also set a new precedence by disregarding the world’s top scientists and the Pentagon, as their concerns about the rate of Global Warming grow graver by the day.
As Mark Townsend and Paul Harris reported for the Observer in the UK in February of 2004, “[The Pentagon report] predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.”
Indeed one of Bush’s first actions in office was to forge the dirty “Energy Policy Act of 2003”, which calls for a slash in renewable energy funding and an increase in fossil fuel consumption. The bill, authored by Vice President Cheney’s Energy Task Force, met with a reported 39 oil lobbyists and executives to form the outlandish legislation. Portions of the bill are still hung up in Congress.
And like his predecessor Bill Clinton, President Bush saw nothing wrong with the disastrous practice of hill-top strip mining, and overturned a federal ruling that had banned the practice during the Clinton years, despite some top Democrats’, including Al Gore’s, dismay.
Then in another bold move, the Bush administration pandered to corporate timber barons and authored a new radically bad forest plan, titled the “Healthy Forests Initiative”, mirrored after Clinton’s Salvage Rider bill and language Democratic Senator Tom Daschle slipped into a bill in the summer of 2002. Daschle’s legal jargon, backed by the Sierra Club and other “green” titans, allowed logging on First American’s land in South Dakota without having to abide by environmental restraints or lawsuits. These very holy lands were once visionary refuge for Lakota Sioux elders including Crazy Horse and Black Elk.
As environmental writer Jeffrey St. Clair wrote at the time, ”The logging plan was consecrated in the name of fire prevention. The goal of the bill, Daschle said, “is to reduce the risk of forest fire by getting [logging] crews on the ground as quickly as possible to start thinning.” It’s long been the self-serving contention of the timber lobby that the only way to prevent forest fires is to log them first.”
The ex-governor of Texas loved Daschle’s cunning style, and Bush’s own forest plan–supported by the majority of Democrats in the Senate (John Kerry forgot to vote that day)–authorized over $760 million dollars in the hopes of preventing wild fires. The legislation however, accomplishes no such thing, and instead sanctions the pillage of over 2.5 million acres of federal forest land by 2012.
Following the forest debacle, Bush began pushing his Clean Skies initiative which calls for a reduction in the limit of harsh chemicals allowed to be released by industrial polluters. The legislation currently aims to cut the US’s “carbon intensity” by measuring the harsh pollutants with an economic model, rather than a scientific analysis. And now the proposed Republican budget for 2005, with the support of many Democrats in the Senate, calls for almost $2 billion dollars in cuts for environmental protection.
This quick look back on Bush’s environmental report card reveals grades far worse then any on his Yale transcript. It is just too bad the blame for nature’s continuous ruin isn’t Bush’s alone.
JOSH FRANK is the author of the forthcoming book, Left Out: How Liberals Helped Bush to be published by Common Courage Press late this year.