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It's the Petroleum, Stupid!
May 3, 2002
By politicsgrl

In what will hopefully prove to be the final two years of President Bush's term occupying the White House, we will undoubtedly witness him being accused of many things. In all likelihood, being an environmentalist is not one of them.

We watched him parade around the Adirondaks in khaki pants and a flannel shirt, hiking trail repair kit in tow, and it provided the ultimate photo-op. Earth Day supplied the time and place for poetic sound bites from the President who said, "We have a duty to make sure that our land is preserved, our air is clean, our water is pure and our parks are open and well preserved."

His feeble attempt at tree hugging was merely a comical component of the unveiling of "Clear Skies" legislation. Please, don't be fooled by the name. It was purposely designed as a euphamism to sedate and confuse people. Rather than actually keeping the skies clear by altering the poisonous habits of certain industries, it allows the heaviest industrial polluters to trade toxic emission points with factories and businesses that have actually reformed their own polluting practices.

This way, the toxic proclivities of big business don't have to change, the air stays just as dirty as it was, and everyone thinks that the President did this really great thing for the environment. Everybody's happy right?

Wrong. What we observed on Earth Day was the President elevating hypocrisy to an art form.

President Bush holds a dismal record when it comes to environmental issues; there are no two ways around it. In the perennial competition between industry and ecology, toxic polluters win every time hands down. If we look back, it becomes painfully obvious that putting nature last when industrial regulation is at stake is something of a knee jerk reaction for Bush. This guy loathes corporate and industrial regulation almost as much as he hates missing an afternoon nap with his wooby.

Upon his ascension to the Texas governor's mansion, he immediately removed virtually every monitoring entity over drinking water quality. (He figured that everyone with a brain in their head had one of those fancy-schmancy Brita filter gizmos in the fridge anyway.) Simultaneously, he allowed all manufacturing plants that were in operation before 1971 to be granted exemption from all state pollution controls. (G.W. would get so steamed when one of his friends in the chemical world would bellyache to him about getting strong-armed by some whale saver down at the Environmental Defense Fund) As a result, Texan children and taxpayers got to experience tap water as tasty and clean as the stuff you find down by the lead mine.

And incidentally, those pre-Clean Air Act factories (all 850 of them), ended up producing nearly 40% of the states total air pollution. While under Governor Bush's tutelage, Texas ranked number one in myriad categories of pollution expertise. Some of these are, but not limited to, number one in the emission of carbon monoxide, in overall toxic releases, and number one for carcinogens in the air. A study conducted by the City of Houston concluded that air pollution in the city itself causes over 400 deaths per year. According to the North American Comission on Environmental Cooperation, while Bush was governor, Texas polluted both the air and water more than any other state or Canadian province. I'm so glad he's our president; aren't you?

Fast forward to the present and we see an administration that is so concerned with the needs of multi-national corporations and oil and chemical manufacturers that our environmental policies are literally being designed by them. We have witnessed the White House unapologetically refuse to inform the public about topics discussed at meetings between cabinet officials and various muckety-mucks at Enron while they were surreptitiously engineering our national energy plan. Clearly, the debate is not that private meetings between cabinet members should be compromised, but rather, when industry lobbyists are brought in to confer on issues of public policy I think that we all have an undeniable right to know what was said. (I wonder what the Republican reaction would be to a Clinton White House refusing to turn over the minutes from one of his meetings? Ken Starr do you hear your phone ringing?)

Drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge was only the beginning; it's actually such small potatoes for these guys that it takes on the characterization of a decoy. There are over a dozen other sites throughout the western United States slated for oil exploration. Among these are the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana, the Rocky Mountain front range, Padre Island National Seashore, and most recently, seismic equipment was actively probing for oil between Arches National and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah.

This is all under the auspices of "oil independence" for our country, and, over the next year, with the administration absolutely gushing with hawkish prowess by picking a fight with Sadaam, I guarantee you will hear this mantra repeatedly. The dogma of the right is to eschew all ties with conservation or funding the exploration of alternative methods of energy production. Their answer to our unquenchable thirst for petroleum is to construct oil rigs in our national parks. So much for our parks being " and well preserved." (Yosemite and Yellowstone were overrated anyway, and besides, we've got Ansel Adams pictures on the wall just in case we can't remember what it looked like.)

We recently celebrated a conclusive victory in the Senate regarding drilling in ANWR. This was the product of ferocious lobbying by environmental groups and was hopefully a sign of future hard ball that the left is willing to play, because this is most definitely not last time this administration will put Mother Nature way behind the wants and needs of industry. The success of Democrats regarding ANWR was quite possibly pay back for the harsh Congressional refusal to elevate fuel efficiency standards for automobiles.

Had these new CAFE standards been adopted (a long shot due to the bottomless millions that auto makers have spent trying to kill it) roughly one million barrels of oil would have been saved each and every day. This just happends to be the exact amount of oil that we import from Iraq and Kuwait. So much for self-sufficiency.

Regarding actual oil collection from drilling in ANWR; the figures that everyone seems to be going on is that there is an estimated 6-12 billion gallons of oil to be had from the ground in Alaska. As a nation, we use about 7 billion gallons per year with 2/3's (62%) of that being imported. Even if we were to keep all of that oil for ourselves, (which no one has guaranteed that we wouldn't sell it to the highest bidder overseas) it would only alter our import figure down to 60%.

We all know where President Bush's loyalty lies. It's like Molly Ivins says, "You gotta dance with those that brung you," and for G.W. Bush the line of handsome and well dressed suitors waiting for the next waltz is long indeed.

politicsgrl is a nice, middle-class mother who lives in Seattle.

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