Environmentally sound means of production do not mesh well with the desire to increase profits, a desire that is necessary for anyone who wishes to keep his or her corporation afloat in the United States. The system currently in place in this country allows a choice between costly, “green” industrial practices and cheaper, polluting alternatives. In fact, until substantial changes are made, the latter choice is often the smarter course, from a business perspective.
Considering his background and behavior, it certainly is not a surprise that President George W. Bush sides firmly with the business-savvy course of action. However, we find it disheartening that he has made absolutely no effort to live up to his campaign promise of reducing pollutants and, more specifically, greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the policy he unveiled last week calls for an increase in the dangerous pollutants.
When his administration pulled out of the Kyoto treaty last year, citing the detrimental effect it would have on the job market, Bush again promised to take meaningful steps toward reducing greenhouse gasses without harming the economy. To this end, his new plan fails spectacularly.
In lieu of the Kyoto protocol’s requirement of reducing carbon dioxide emissions to more than 5 percent below 1990 levels, Bush instead proposes reducing the “emissions intensity.” Translated, this means he wants – though doesn’t require – carbon dioxide emissions to grow at a slower rate than the rest of the economy. His hollow goal is to reduce emissions intensity over the next 10 years to 18 percent below that of today.
There are two glaring problems with this. First, emissions intensity was reduced by approximately 18 percent during the last decade, according to a study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council, so this essentially does nothing. The marginal benefit it could provide would only be present if the problem of pollution did not exist today, but was something approaching from the horizon. By Bush’s own estimates, greenhouse gasses will increase by approximately 14 percent during the next decade. Treating a problem that exists today by promising to exacerbate it at a slower rate is the industrial equivalent of a person pouring a quart of oil into a garden, then recycling the plastic container.
Equally disturbing is Bush’s nonsensical proposal put a “cap and trade” system in place. Under this system, the government would set a total limit on dangerous emissions, then allow polluting companies to buy credits toward their goal from cleaner companies, allowing violators to essentially buy their way to compliance.
Industry leaders are, of course, overjoyed at this plan of non-action. The rest of the country should be alarmed and disappointed. While we hope a set of meaningful environmental policies will eventually be put into law, we would also encourage people to have patience. Clearly, this president doesn’t have it in him.