Of course, I had to check out this post at Hugg with the headline “George Bush Believes in Global Warming…Really!” Brooklyn-based blogger Mark Caserta took note of a short article at Breitbart.com that quotes Dubya as saying “I have said consistently that global warming is a serious problem. There’s a debate over whether it’s manmade or naturally caused.” He also offered his three favorite solutions to the problem: “clean coal” technology, cars that run on hydrogen and ethanol, and an expansion of nuclear power. Mark noted:
…it was clear that the President was careful not to upset his base, opting to avoid the debate about whether Global Warming is a man-made phenomenon. Still, the decision to move past this debate and towards workable solutions is much appreciated. In addition, the solutions he offered (nuclear, clean-coal, hydrogen) were controversial on the left side of the aisle and should be part of the debate to come.
While I’d love to share Mark’s enthusiasm, and that of a commenter at Hugg, I really don’t see anything particularly shocking here. Bush is sticking to the line about there still being a debate over the causes of global warming (as is Sen. James Inhofe), but, of course, nobody can find a scientist who’s not in the pay of oil-company-supported front groups, or a single published scholarly article, that gives any legitimacy to this claim. Secondly, the solutions he lists are highly problematic, and not just for “the left.” Clean coal has some potential, but, as Jeff Goodell points out, only a small handful of the 110 new coal-fired plants scheduled for construction in coming years will incorporate clean coal technologies. The rest will be the same old dirty variety. Hydrogen is two to three decades away as a commercially-viable automotive fuel, and still may have to come from fossil fuels. Ethanol does hold some promise, particularly lesser-known varieties, but won’t solve the problem by itself. And, even if we discount the numerous arguments concerning the environmental impact of nuclear power (which we shouldn’t, but I don’t want to go there right now…), there’s still the issue of the time frame and costs for building nuclear reactors.
See, I just see more of the same here — let’s talk about technologies that we’re either 1) not going to use, 2) are still far away from practical application, or 3) still fraught with problems that can’t simply be dismissed. I’d be shocked (and delighted) if Dubya were making firm commitments on automobile fuel efficiency or public transportation infrastructure. I’d be amazed (and delighted) if he started discussing the plans put forth by the Apollo Alliance. I’d be oohhing and ahhing if he announced initiatives to support green building and renovation. Or plug-in hybrids. Or electric cars. Or maybe just sat down to talk with Al Gore and to see An Inconvenient Truth….
The thing is, we have the technology — what we need is leadership and political will. I didn’t see either of those in Dubya’s statement. Perhaps I’m missing something — if so, enlighten me. But I’ll feel pretty safe betting on two and a half more years of rhetoric like this, and very little action. Dubya created the world’s largest marine reserve — let’s give him some props for that. But statements like these deserve little more than disdain. If I thought there was the least bit of encouragement here that we’re going to see reasonable action (I originally wrote “dramatic,” but would settle for reasonable), I’d applaud and spread the news… but it just ain’t there…