Calls to Act on Global Warming Precede Bush Speech
WASHINGTON -- Environmentalists, evangelical Christians and congressional and corporate leaders have called for action on global warming in the days leading up to President Bush's State of the Union speech.
Interest is particularly keen because of what Bush said in last year's address to Congress and the nation: that "America is addicted to oil" and that this addiction should be broken with technological advances and alternative fuels.
Since then, environmental activists and others concerned about the impact of global climate change -- more severe storms, destructive droughts, rising sea levels and higher insurance costs -- have looked for substantial steps from the White House.
Many have expressed disappointment. Bush's 2006 State of the Union speech may have unduly raised expectations, said Ben Lieberman of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.
"I thought using the extreme rhetoric last year -- 'addicted to oil' -- was a mistake, because it could make people expect extreme action, and there really hasn't been," Lieberman said in a telephone interview.
Asked what the Bush administration has done in the last year to cut U.S. dependence on oil, federal officials said highlights include a $1 billion tax credit for construction of clean coal plants, a $16 million research program on recycling nuclear fuel, $250 million to study new biological fuels, and a tightening of fuel efficiency standards for light trucks.
The Bush administration's moves did not impress environmental groups on a telephone news conference Friday.
'HELPING BIG OIL'
"We have a White House that has yet to deliver on its own rhetoric about ending our dependence on fossil fuels, and up to now has placed its emphasis on helping Big Oil," Betsy Loyless of the National Audubon Society said at that briefing.
Bush is expected to call for a big increase in the use of ethanol in Tuesday's speech, according to sources familiar with White House plans, but probably will not advocate limits on the emission of greenhouse gases -- including carbon dioxide given off by power plants and vehicles -- which contribute to global warming.
That may not be enough for some major U.S. corporations, which formed a coalition with environmental advocates to urge Bush and Congress to fight climate change faster.
Known as the United States Climate Action Partnership, the group includes Alcoa Inc., General Electric Co., DuPont Co. and Duke Energy Corp. It plans to publicize its recommendations Monday, a day before the big speech.
In another unlikely pairing, evangelical Christians and scientists from Harvard Medical School and elsewhere also banded together last week to fight global warming, and called on Bush and others in power to do the same.
The climate change issue prompted bipartisan cooperation in Congress, where Sen. Joe Biden, a Delaware Democrat who heads the Foreign Relations Committee, joined the ranking Republican, Indiana's Richard Lugar, to introduce a resolution urging a U.S. return to international negotiations on climate change.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat who has long advocated environment-friendly policies, said Friday, "It is important to our children's health and their global competitiveness to rid this nation of our dependence on foreign oil and Big Oil interests."
Pelosi also announced the creation of a new congressional committee dealing specifically with global warming, and the House passed legislation aimed at "Big Oil" that would roll back industry tax breaks and force energy companies to pay more drilling royalties.