President Bush Comes Up Empty on Climate Change Policy

June 12, 2001

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today President Bush made his most extensive remarks on global climate change since he assumed office. Unfortunately, according to leading energy efficiency experts, his remarks will do little to address the problem. "Bush's only proposals today were to expand a couple of research initiatives," stated Steven Nadel, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. "We are glad to hear that President Bush recognizes that climate change is a problem, but now is the time to propose real solutions rather than more research."

In his speech, President Bush called for creation of a National Climate Change Technology Initiative "to strengthen research" and "fund demonstration projects." But President Bush neglected to say how much money would be allocated to the Initiative. "In fact, President Bush's budget for next year cuts $180 million in funding from energy efficiency R&D and deployment programs. If the President is serious about expanding implementations of clean energy technologies, he must bite the bullet and come up with additional funds for it. Otherwise, he's just making empty promises," Nadel said.

President Bush (Senior) and President Clinton increased funding for clean energy technologies and initiated other voluntary programs to cut carbon dioxide emissions (the main gas causing global warming). These were worthwhile actions, but they failed to halt the rise in carbon dioxide emissions during the 1990s. "Based on past experience, the voluntary actions mentioned by the President today—even if adequately funded—will not stop growth in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in the future," said Nadel.

President Bush missed another opportunity to commit to specific actions that would substantially lower U.S. energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. Among the actions that should be taken:

  • Raise the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards on new cars and light trucks;
  • Reverse the rollback of air conditioner standards previously announced by the Bush Administration and propose to set new efficiency standards on other products;
  • Adopt a national system benefit trust fund that would help restore funding for energy efficiency programs that have been reduced or eliminated by many states and utilities; and
  • Adopt a comprehensive set of tax incentives for energy-efficient technologies including highly efficient appliances, heating and cooling systems, new homes, and commercial buildings.

According to ACEEE research, these policies can reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by more than 10% by 2010. "Taking leadership on climate change requires concrete and strong actions. President Bush's statement today fell well short of such leadership," concluded Nadel.