Elephant Memory, p. 2

Screw the Environment

1.  Let the Earth Burn
Bush's own scientists agreed that human activity is warming the Earth, but Bush still refused to do anything.
- About ten years after every independent scientist in the world agreed that climate change is real, a Bush administration report finally acknowledged that the burning of fossil fuels was the primary cause of global climate change.
- But Bush himself said we're still not sure whether climate change is real.  In fact, every non-industry-paid climatologist believes global warming is taking place.  The debates are only about extent.  Only paid toadies of the oil and automotive industries keep denying.  Do the research.  Industry just plain lies about climate change.  (See TomPaine.com on this issue for point-by-point analysis or my law review article on climate change for a review of the science)  The fact is, it is happening and we know why.
- There is now real evidence, in addition to climate models, of global warming: shrinking of ice caps, shrinking of glaciers, infestations of pests in places that used to be too cold for them, new pattersn of enormous wildfires and droughts (Andrew Revkin, When Will We Be Sure? Sept. 10, 2000; Bob Herbert, How Hot is too Hot, NY Times, June 24, 2002, at A19).  2001 was the second hottest year on record; 1998 the first.
Bush formally abandoned the Kyoto convention on climate change
- The Kyoto convention set modest, but binding, emissions limits.  Bush abandoned it, preferring "voluntary" (read: no) limits.  This move has seriously hurt international efforts on climate change and has further isolated the US from everyone else in the world, now when we most need their support.  Every major industrial power has agreed to Kyoto -- but not us. Because our president comes from the industry that would be hurt by changing our behavior.
Bush also reversed a pledge to cut CO2 emissions in a "major betrayal" of a previous promise.  (NY Times, March 14, 2001, A1).  During the 2000 campaign, Bush promised mandatory reduction targets for CO2.  Then, he let it drop.  Why?  Maybe because oil and other industry lobbyists are running the government.
Bush's "Voluntary" Climate Change plan was written by industry.  Bush's big alternative to Kyoto is that businesses should voluntarily cut the pace of emissions' growth.  Yeah they've done that really well so far.  Who came up with this great idea?  "Every number, every date, are the numbers and dates that they [fossil fuel companies] advocated," said David Hawkins, climate policy director at the NRDC.  (NY Times, Feb. 15, 2002, at A6).  This isn't just the fox guarding the henhouse.  This is the fox saying "I'm going to kill more hens, and this is how, and you're gonna have to take it."
This plan would be totally ineffective.  At its best, it would gradually reduce the rate of increase of emissions.  Scientists say that CO2 emissions need to fall bellow 1990 levels in order to slow catastrophic climate change.  But jeez, that might actually hurt the oil companies' bottom line...
Another little side-note: Bush proposes tax credits for businesses that lower emissions.  Great!  More tax-breaks for business!  Just what we need!

2.   The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Bush and his team want to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for exploration.
 - The ANWR coastal plain, where drilling would occur, is a pristine wilderness, a diverse ecosystem, and the birthing ground for over 129,000 caribou.  (William Cronon, Neither Barren Nor Remote, NY Times, 2/28/01) 180 bird species use the ANWR, including many migratory species that have ties to ecosystems in the Northeast, Midwest, California, etc.  (id.)
- The US Geological Survey estimates the ANWR may have beween 4-12 billion barrels of oil.  Taking the mean (7 bil), that translates into about 1 year of oil at our current daily use of 18 million barrels/day.  (Amazing since 7 billion barrels would have supplied us from 1859-1924, and now lasts only a year) (id.)
- Alaska, meanwhile, has the highest per capita federal spending ($8,521 per person!) in the country and gets so much largesse (e.g., a $176k grant to the Reindeer Herders Association) that the money is called "Stevens Money" after Senator Ted Stevens.  (NY Times, March 18, 2001, A14).  Welfare for Republicans.
- The "it won't hurt the ANWR because it's only 2000 acres" argument is bullshit.  That counts platforms but not connecters or pipes or roads; it's like saying your desk only takes up six inches of floor space because it only touches the floor on six square inches.  (Paul Krugman, Two Thousand Acres, NY Times, Mar. 1, 2002, A23)
- Why are the Bush people LYING about how much oil it'll yield, LYING about conservation's potential, and LYING about the harm drilling will cause?  Probably because it is good for the big oil business.  Companies like Halliburton -- Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton before becoming the GOP's VP candidate, and still holds millions of dollars' worth of stock -- stand to make billions of dollars in the new exploration.

3.  The "Energy Plan"
Remember the "Energy Crisis"?  In the first half of 2001, it was a Big Problem.  The Bush team developed an "Energy Plan", which we now know was created by large oil and industrial concerns, all large GOP donors.  (NY Times, March 1, 2002, at A1).  The task force that came up with the Energy Plan worked in secret (see NY Times, May 16, 2001, at A1) and came up with a wishlist of everything oil, gas, and nuclear companies wanted.  It marginalized conservation (even though every dollar invested in energy efficiency in federal buildings saves taxpayers $4 in energy costs, and energy efficiency improvements made since 1973 have saved Americans $400 billion a year, according to TomPaine.com).  And it disregarded safety and environmental concerns at every turn.

Now, there's no more "Energy Crisis," but there is a War.  So Big Oil is using September 11 as a pretext for the same set of pro-oil, anti-environmental statutes they didn't get through the first time.  Thank you for using the death of innocent Americans as a pretext for serving your greed!

But instead of six months of oil from Alaska, wouldn't a better get-us-off-foreign-oil plan be to move us away from oil, period?  What about tax incentives for more fuel-efficient vehicles?  Alternative fuel research?  Importing oil costs us $250 billion a year, including subsidies and secondary costs.  (Rob Nixon, A Dangerous Appetite for Oil, NY Times, Oct. 29, 2001, at A11.)  We consume 25% of the world's oil, but even including Alaska, possess only 4% of world oil resources.  Clearly, if we want to reduce our dangerous appetite for oil overseas, we have to reduce our appetite for oil.

Here is a great New Yorker article about this -- follow the link to "Poor Little Big Oil" to download the document.  It's a great one pager about how the fluctuations in oil supply and demand are simple supply and demand, and how these claims that we need a national energy policy are both (a) totally false and (b) wildly hypocritical for a less-government-Republican to make.

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August 2002

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