As Bush gave his somewhat vague State of The Union Address last evening, he reached a hot topic: energy. Bush also said something that surely excited millions of environmentalists: we must work together to solve “the serious challenge of global climate change.” Horray! Problem solved – everyone believes and we’ll stop using oil tomorrow.
Well… not exactly. Bush repeated what he stated one year ago, that we have been dependent on foreign oil for too long. He stressed the importance of developing solar and wind power, which is rational and shows long-term economic thinking. Something more concerning, however: he mentioned pursuing clean coal technology, and safe nuclear power. Coal is a non-renewable resource and developing such technology is a very short-term solution. Furthermore, nuclear power can never be safe; we are already having problems determining locations to store the incredibly dangerous waste it produces.
Bush’s goal of reducing gasoline usage in the U.S. by 20% in the next ten years is a beginning. It is, however, not an aggressive enough goal given that scientists agree we have approximately ten years to take swift aciton to reduce the level of greenhouse gases released from human activities to avoid catastrophe. Pledging to only reduce one portion of our oil consumption is not enough, nor is the reduction aggressive enough. President Bush ought to take advantage of the large public concern with global warming to enact a nationwide cap on carbon dioxide emissions. We are in need of a comprehensive, long-term plan – not a series of short term solutions that address only only part of our problem.
Also, he stressed stepping up our domestic oil supply by drilling in environmentally sensitive ways. Translation: he will keep trying to open up oil fields in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and pursue more dangerous, ever deeper, offshore drilling. While one could argue we have technology to drill in increasingly delicate areas, the transport of crude is incredibly problematic. On average, an estimated 409 oil spills occur annually in Prudhoe Bay in Alaska – the spills range in size and impact but one must certainly question whether an inconsequential amount of oil is worth opening up the last “Great American Wilderness.”
Towards the close of Bush’s speech, he provided four anecdotal stories of heroism – ranging from local to international – in an effort to distract the American people from his unfeeling agenda that does not display heroism in any sense. To end on a positive note, I am pleased he mentioned the “here and now” in his address.