Friday, August 26, 2005

states picking up feds' slack

I read something yesterday that I found utterly fascinating. According to a recent article in The New York Times, nine Northeastern states have taken the initiative of enacting new restrictions on emissions. In doing so, they have joined a number of the larger U.S. metropolitan areas in getting on board with the goals of the Kyoto accord, which President Bush refused to ratify on the grounds that it would be inimical to American interests.

Air pollution in general and emissions specifically are the most significant items of interest in the ongoing discussion on global warming and what to do about it. Virtually everyone except the president and his administration acknowledge that manmade pollution is heating up the earth's atmosphere and effecting climate change on a massive scale.

It's ironic that this movement is happening now, during the Bush administration, not just because it shows how out of step Bush is with a large segment of the voting population, but because he unintentionally or inadvertantly has reminded us of a great truth I think most politicians would rather we forgot: We have the power within ourselves to effect change, even when they won't do it for us.

Bush, whose administration has more ties to the oil and energy industry than I have unmatched socks in my drawer, has been about as unsupportive of the environmental movement as you can be without actually clubbing baby seals. He's expanded the timber industry's access to the forests in our national parks, targeted the Alaskan Wildlife Preserve for oil drilling, put oil industry executives on the task force that helped develop our national energy policy, loosened the fuel efficiency requirements for auto manufacturers, refused to ratify the aforementioned Kyoto accord, and has granted coal-burning power plants leave not to clean up their acts, leaving East Coast states like New Jersey to deal with the acid rain caused by Midwest power plants. Oh, and he also issued an executive order countermanding one by President Clinton that would have required toilet manufacturers to design commodes that use fewer gallons per flush.

All told, while the Bush administration has been a boon to business and industry, it's been quite the opposite to the environmental movement. It's been bad enough that former New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman, who could hardly be described as an environmentalist for her eight years as that state's chief executive, resigned as head of the Environmental Protection Agency when she could no longer support his environmentally unfriendly policies.

But Bush is out of step with much of America on this issue, and I think we're going to see more evidence of this as time goes on. Environmental groups are applauding the Northeastern states' actions, because they think other states are going to follow their initiative and take similar steps to curb emissions from power plants, industry, and automobiles.

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