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Bush's address tackles energy and climate

发布时间:2019-02-27 07:02:05来源:未知点击:

By Peter Aldhous America’s addiction to gas-guzzlers is at last poised to receive some treatment. In his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday, President George W Bush announced a plan to cut US gasoline use by 20% over the coming decade. “For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil,” Bush told the US Congress. “It is in our vital interest to diversify America’s energy supply, and the way forward is through technology.” Three quarters of the proposed cut would be achieved by requiring the use of 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels – including ethanol and hydrogen – by 2017. This is nearly five times larger than the current target, which must be met by 2012. The rest of the cut in gasoline use would be made by strengthening the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for new vehicles. With his public approval rating down to just 28%, according to one poll from CBS News, Bush wanted to boost his domestic policy agenda to refocus attention from his handling of the unpopular war in Iraq. Tackling the nation’s problems with energy is one area on which his administration may find common ground with the new Congress, now under Democratic control (see Science may gain in new Congress). In the run-up to Bush’s speech, corporate leaders and evangelical Christians had joined scientists and environmental activists in calling for tougher action to combat climate change (see Calls to act on global warming precede Bush speech). The CAFE standards require vehicle manufacturers to meet average fuel efficiency targets across their entire range of models. The 2007 standards are 27.5 miles per gallon for passenger cars and 22.2 mpg for light trucks and SUVs. Given that the former figure has remained unchanged since 1990, reform is long overdue. “This could be the breakthrough we have been waiting for on fuel economy,” says David Friedman, research director of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which is campaigning for tougher action to fight global warming. Bush is now proposing that the fuel efficiency of new vehicles should increase by 4% per year, starting in 2010 for cars and in 2012 for light trucks and SUVs. “That’s about a mile per gallon, per year,” says Jason Grumet, executive director of the National Commission on Energy Policy, a politically bipartisan group. “It’s actually quite aggressive.” Grumet also welcomes the requirement to replace more gasoline with renewable and alternative fuels. But he points to one serious flaw: the definition of “alternative” includes liquid fuels made from coal, with no requirement to capture and sequester carbon dioxide. According to the UCS, any fuels made in this way would produce double the greenhouse emissions as the gasoline they would replace. So if a significant proportion of the alternative fuels are derived from coal, Bush’s policy will do little to limit global warming. Nevertheless, Bush said advances in energy technology would “help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change”. And the White House claims that his new proposals will stop the projected growth in carbon dioxide emissions from cars, light trucks and SUVs within 10 years. But critics argue that simply reining in emissions from vehicles is not enough. “To address global warming, the president needed to go much further,” says Friedman. “We must set an overall cap on global warming pollution for the entire economy.” The UCS is also calling for legislation to require utilities to produce 20% of the US’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Bills to set firm targets by which to reduce total US carbon dioxide emissions are already being introduced in Congress. Whether they will gain sufficient bipartisan support to become law is unclear, however. There are divisions on the topic even within the Democratic congressional leadership. John Dingell, chairman of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, has been angered by a plan from house speaker Nancy Pelosi to create a new committee to consider climate policy. Dingell, from Detroit, Michigan, is close to auto manufacturers and wary of legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. More on these topics: