Hot Air: Riding a Cloud of Smog, Bush Descends on Europe
Several years ago, Alcoa's Rockdale plant was informed that the air pollution emissions from its smokestack, descending on neighborhoods at the edge of its property, were in violation of permissible levels. Alcoa responded with a time-honored industrial solution: It built a bigger smokestack. That way, the pollution would fall to earth farther away, on somebody else's neighborhood.
Last week President Bush pursued a similar strategy in Europe, disseminating hot air not quite breathable here but plenty clean enough for those incorrigible Europeans. Just before he left, the National Academy of Sciences informed him (once again) that man-made global warming is a real and growing problem. Bush smogged: Well, yes, there might be a problem, just not one I'm prepared to do anything about. We need more studies. Still, since Bush had reneged earlier this year on his campaign promise to reduce U.S. carbon emissions, his agreement that global warming is a problem was applauded -- in the U.S. press -- as progress.
You've got to hand it to the man -- he knows how to exceed low expectations.
As science, the NAS report is nothing new. It's only the closest the scientists have been allowed to approach the White House. On environmental matters, the administration favors the corporate slogan of "sound science," by which it means any science big business likes the sound of. Earlier this year, the international Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report documenting global warming and its expected effects upon climate change. It was met in Washington by profound indifference.
While Bush was making the grand tour hawking Star Wars, the National Environmental Trust issued yet another report documenting the lackluster record of the president's home state in environmental protection. Permit to Pollute (available at www.environet.org) examines the regulatory practices of Ohio, Texas, and Georgia concerning "Title V" provisions of the federal Clean Air Act, the 1990 amendments intended to make regulation of industrial air pollution more systematic and efficient.
The report concludes that the TNRCC's management of Title V regulations is woefully inadequate, issuing "permits to pollute" wholesale without public input or regulatory oversight, and allowing companies to emit toxic pollution essentially at will, "on a routine basis, in violation of the law." The state environmental organizations announcing the report (SEED, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, Neighbors for Neighbors) called for the EPA to reassume Title V enforcement authority, in the hopes that something might be done to protect public health and safety.
Unfortunately, the Bush budget slashes EPA's enforcement resources, moves more authority to the states, and mandates "energy impact statements" so that environmental protection won't obstruct the Bush/Cheney energy plan: drill-and-burn.
Maybe if we just build a really, really big smokestack. ...
Apparently unfulfilled by his de facto promotion to the position of the President's Editor, the Statesman's Rich Oppel has bravely taken on the job of Ari Fleischer's second-in-command. On Sunday, Rich-the-PE courageously faced down those impertinent Europeans who had the gall to criticize Dubya-on-Tour, providing a handy Q&A guide designed to deflect pesky questions about the Bush administration's impervious and imperial foreign policy. Fleischer should soon be passing out copies in the White House press room.
The Statesman's Spin Doctor
However, it was hard to tell whether Oppel was more condescending to hypothetical foreigners or to his Central Texas readers, who he apparently presumes are ignorant of both simple logic and simple facts.
Did Bush preside over 152 executions? Yes, responds Oppel-Ed, but in Europe they have wars!
Didn't the U.S. fight alongside Europeans in the Balkans? Yes, answers Oppel-the-Spinmeister, but the Europeans didn't enjoy it!
Would the proposed Bush abrogation of the 1972 ABM treaty threaten a new arms race? "With whom?" answers the President's Spin Doctor brightly, since Russia is bankrupt and China weak. That is: We need a $60 billion, non-working, de-stabilizing, and preposterous missile defense system, declares the PE, to hold off those military behemoths that replaced Russia and China while we were napping: Iraq and North Korea.
Does the U.S. produce more greenhouse emissions than any other nation? Yes, but also more goods, "in the world's most efficient, cleanest factories"!
There's much more of this Oppel-Inania (including knee-jerk redbaiting of the opposition in France and Germany), but that bromide about the "most efficient, cleanest" factories in the U.S. (the sort of jingoism editors program into their keyboards to avoid thinking) is wrong enough to suggest either self-delusion or deception.
It doesn't take much hunting to discover the facts. The available sources on greenhouse emissions are myriad, but even Sunday's Houston Chronicle offers the following:
"From an energy policy perspective, if the U.S. economy operated as efficiently as those of Europe or Japan, American energy consumption would fall by about 30%. In that case, U.S. carbon emissions might be expected to fall to the European rate per dollar of gross domestic product; that would mean a 35% drop.
"That means it would already meet the Kyoto emission targets. ..."
That outrageously radical analysis is provided by one Norbert Walter, chief economist for those hotheads in the Deutsche Bank Group. A resentful Kraut, the PE would no doubt sniff, and probably a little pinko himself.
Oppel's intro mocked those Swedish demonstrators who greeted Bush by showing their behinds, and he presumes that red-blooded Texans will consider an insult to Bush an insult to us all.
So, leaping to the defense of his Fearless Leader, Oppel mooned his readers.