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Bush/Nero climate speech: “Technology, technology, blah, blah, let’s fiddle until 2025″

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"Bush/Nero climate speech: “Technology, technology, blah, blah, let’s fiddle until 2025″"

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bushnero.jpgBefore reviewing Bush’s “8-repetitions-of-technology” speech (reprinted below), let’s remember the words of the head of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri — who was handpicked by Bush to replace the “alarmist” Bob Watson:

If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.”

And then we have today’s installment of Great Moments in Presidential Speeches (see Letterman compilation here):

Today, I am announcing a new national goal: to stop the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

In related news, Emperor Nero announced a plan to stop fiddling in 17 years. But, in the meantime, of course, we need to focus on new firefighting technology to start putting out the fire in, say, 10 to 15 years! As predicted (here), the headline of this post strangely reminds me of the post on Bush’s September climate speech: Bush climate speech follows Luntz playbook: “Technology, technology, blah, blah, blah.” Heck, this “new” speech even has a section titled:

On technology as the key to addressing climate change:

We must all recognize that in the long run, new technologies are the key to addressing climate change.

[And yes, I'm sure that the drinking game judge will, when he sobers up a bit, allow -- indeed, demand -- a drink for section titles even if Bush doesn't utter the word. So you should get 8 drinks lined up for "technology" and another 8 for "goal." I hope you have a strong stomach.]

And yet Bush has actually repeatedly cut the budget for key clean energy technologies and opposed clean energy subsidies (see here). Bush’s entire speech is just Luntz-programmed rhetoric. His call for utility emissions regulations is a rehashing of a 2000 campaign promise that he reneged on seven years ago (see here)! He is all hat and no cattle.

A MYSTERIOUS LOW-CARBON INCENTIVE

It is a very bizarre speech in that Bush is not explicitly calling for a carbon pricing mechanism, but rather for a mystery incentive “to make the commercialization and use of new, lower emission technologies more competitive.” The incentive “should be carbon-weighted” and “technology-neutral” and “long-lasting” — sounds awfully like a carbon price to me! But he says it should “make lower emission power sources less expensive relative to higher emissions sources” — as opposed to, I guess, making higher emissions sources more expensive. So rather than a price for carbon, it seems to be an anti-price for nega-carbon. Who knows? Who cares?

This incentive — and his entire climate strategy — looks and sounds like a lame duck to me. No, I mean that literally — it looks and sounds like Bush is lamely ducking the entire friggin’ problem, guaranteeing his legacy to future generations will be eight years of actively fighting all efforts to restrict greenhouse gas emissions — and this speech is one more example of delay and obstruction (see here). And that means historians will almost certainly recount that Bush’s biggest impact on the nation and the world — by far — was that he made it far more likely that the next 50 generations will suffer widespread desertification, extreme flooding and sea level rise, and the extinction of most species on land and in the ocean.

As for which quote from Yogi Berra best describe this speech, I see a tie between:

  • “This is like deja vu all over again.”
  • “You got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”
  • “Slump? I ain’t in no slump… I just ain’t hitting.”

More reaction from Center for American Progress and Grist and Warming Law and Energy Smart and many others.

UPDATE: Wonk Room comments here.

Here is the entire speech (video available here):

On the principles for effectively confronting climate change:

Over the past seven years, my Administration has taken a rational, balanced approach to these serious challenges. We believe we need to protect our environment. We believe we need to strengthen our energy security. We believe we need to grow our economy. And we believe the only way to achieve these goals is through continued advances in technology.

I have put our Nation on a path to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of our greenhouse gas emissions. In 2002, I announced our first step: to reduce America’s greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent through 2012. I am pleased to say that we remain on track to meet this goal even as our economy has grown 17 percent.

When I took office seven years ago, we faced a problem. A number of nations around the world were preparing to implement the flawed approach of the Kyoto Protocol. In 1997, the United States Senate had passed a resolution opposing this approach by a vote of 95 to zero. The Kyoto Protocol would have required the U.S. to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The impact of this agreement would have been to limit our economic growth and shift American jobs to other countries while allowing major developing nations to increase their emissions. Countries like China and India are experiencing rapid economic growth which is good for their people and good for the world. But this also means that they are emitting increasingly large quantities of greenhouse gases which has consequences for the entire global climate. So the United States has launched, and the G8 has embraced, a new process that brings together the countries responsible for most of the world’s emissions.

On the new goal:

In support of this process, and based on technology advances and strong new policies, it is now time for the U.S. to look beyond 2012 and take the next step. We have shown that we can slow emissions growth. Today, I am announcing a new national goal: to stop the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

To reach this goal, we will pursue an economy-wide strategy that builds on the solid foundation we have in place. As part of this strategy, we worked with Congress to pass energy legislation that specifies a new fuel economy standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, and requires fuel producers to supply at least 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022. This should provide an incentive for shifting to a new generation of fuels like cellulosic ethanol that will reduce concerns about food prices and the environment. We also mandated new objectives for the coming decade to increase the efficiency of lighting and appliances.

Taken together, these landmark actions will prevent billions of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere.

To reach our 2025 goal, we will need to more rapidly slow the growth of power sector greenhouse gas emissions so that they peak within 10 to 15 years, and decline thereafter. By doing so, we will reduce emission levels in the power sector well below where they were projected to be when we first announced our climate strategy in 2002. There are a number of ways to achieve these reductions, but all responsible approaches depend on accelerating the development and deployment of new technologies.

On the problem of outdated regulations being applied to climate change:

As we approach this challenge, we face a growing problem here at home. Some courts are taking laws written more than 30 years ago to primarily address local and regional environmental effects, and applying them to global climate change. The Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act were never meant to regulate global climate change. For example, under a Supreme Court decision last year, the Clean Air Act could be applied to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.

If these laws are stretched beyond their original intent, they could override the programs Congress just adopted, and force the government to regulate more than just power plant emissions. They could also force the government to regulate smaller users and producers of energy from schools and stores to hospitals and apartment buildings. This would make the federal government act like a local planning and zoning board, and it would have crippling effects on our entire economy.

Decisions with such far-reaching impact should not be left to unelected regulators and judges. Such decisions should be debated openly and made by the elected representatives of the people they affect. The American people deserve an honest assessment of the costs, benefits and feasibility of any proposed solution.

On the wrong way and the right way for Congress to approach climate change legislation:

This year, Congress will soon be considering additional legislation that will affect global climate change. I believe that Congressional debate should be guided by certain core principles and a clear appreciation that there is a wrong way and a right way to approach reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Bad legislation would impose tremendous costs on our economy and American families without accomplishing the important climate change goals we share.

The wrong way is to raise taxes, duplicate mandates, or demand sudden and drastic emissions cuts that have no chance of being realized and every chance of hurting our economy. The right way is to set realistic goals for reducing emissions consistent with advances in technology, while increasing our energy security and ensuring our economy can continue to prosper and grow.

The wrong way is to jeopardize our energy and economic security by abandoning nuclear power and our Nation’s huge reserves of coal. The right way is to promote more emission-free nuclear power and encourage the investments necessary to produce electricity from coal without releasing carbon into the air.

The wrong way is to unilaterally impose regulatory costs that put American businesses at a disadvantage with their competitors abroad which would simply drive American jobs overseas and increase emissions there. The right way is to ensure that all major economies are bound to take action and to work cooperatively with our partners for a fair and effective international climate agreement.

On technology as the key to addressing climate change:

We must all recognize that in the long run, new technologies are the key to addressing climate change. But in the short run, they can be more expensive to operate. That is why I believe part of any solution means reforming today’s complicated mix of incentives to make the commercialization and use of new, lower emission technologies more competitive.

First, the incentive should be carbon-weighted to make lower emission power sources less expensive relative to higher emissions sources, and it should take into account our Nation’s energy security needs.

Second, the incentive should be technology-neutral because the government should not be picking winners and losers in this emerging market.

Third, the incentive should be long-lasting. It should provide a positive and reliable market signal not only for the investment in a technology, but also for the investments in domestic manufacturing capacity and infrastructure that will help lower costs and scale up availability.

On putting America on an ambitious new track for greenhouse gas reductions:

If we fully implement our strong new laws, adhere to the principles I’ve outlined, and adopt appropriate incentives, we will put America on an ambitious new track for greenhouse gas reductions. The growth in emissions will slow over the next decade, stop by 2025, and begin to reverse thereafter, so long as technology continues to advance.

The strategy I have laid out today shows faith in the ingenuity and enterprise of the American people — and that is one resource that will never run out. I am confident that with sensible and balanced policies from Washington, American innovators and entrepreneurs will pioneer a new generation of technology that improves our environment, strengthens our economy, and continues to amaze the world.

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29 Responses to Bush/Nero climate speech: “Technology, technology, blah, blah, let’s fiddle until 2025″

  1. Earl Killian says:

    The comparison with Nero is apropos. Nero’s name (Nero or Neron) is the source of the number 666 (originally 616) in Revelation 13. So you are in effect associating Bush with the apocalypse. Care then to speculate on Bush’s “ten horns and seven heads”?

  2. Phil says:

    “I am announcing a new national goal: to stop the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.”

    So, what he’s actually announced is the US Government’s intention to continually increase greenhouse gas emissions until 2025.

    A crime against humanity.

  3. Paul K says:

    So far, Bush administration policies contrary to the continuous asinine criticism from so called progressives have not only lowered the rate of emissions growth, they have lowered actually amount of CO2 emitted. In the face of this fact, the critics ascribe this success to any conceivable cause other than the policy. Wonderful things are happening in the replacement of fossil fuels.

  4. Paul K says:

    “I am announcing a new national goal: to stop the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.”
    A crime against humanity.
    I believe that’s about the same timetable that Joe and most of the climate scientists have in the stabilize at 450 ppm scenario. When do we round them up?

  5. Earl Killian says:

    Paul K, 2001 was Bush year 1, and GHG emissions that year were 6865.4 million tonnes (CO2e). The preliminary 2006 data (last year available) are 7075.6 million tonnes. That is not a decrease, it is a 3% increase.

    In actuality the data from single years is a bit noisy, just like climate data. We would need to see a sustained trend to say things have changed.

  6. Ronald says:

    One question is how did President Bush’s greenhouse gases reduction goals and The Breakthrough Institute’s policies of greenhouse reductions effort come so close to the same numbers? Answer me that.

  7. Shannon says:

    I am sure that this mysterious low-carbon incentive will turn out to be public subsidies for nuclear power. Just read the playbook.

  8. Earl Killian says:

    Paul K, stopping growth in GHG emissions in 2025 is not the same as stopping GHG emissions. Today we add 2 ppm per year to the atmosphere. If we continue to grow emissions between now and 2025, we’ll be at least 2.2 ppm by 2025. If then we manage to stop the growth in 2025, i.e. they stay at just 2.2 ppm / year, then we reach 450ppm in 2039. This is not what Joe and climate scientists are recommending. For example, Hansen is recommending the elimination of coal by 2030. That would have CO2 emissions much less than 2 ppm by 2025.

  9. Paul K says:

    According to the NOAA website, 2006 US emissions dropped by 1.3%. Compare the rate of growth in the current administration to that in the previous. There are many reasons to criticize Bush. That’s fine. I’ve got plenty of my own. The apocalypse and crimes against humanity nonsense is beyond inane.

  10. Phil says:

    Paul K;

    Read carefully:

    Dubya wants to stabilise EMISSIONS GROWTH.

    Those who know what they are talking about want to stabilise atmospheric GHG CONCENTRATIONS.

    Two completely different things, as Joe’s “friend” Roger P Jr pointed out many moons ago.

  11. Phil says:

    “Dubya wants to stabilise EMISSIONS GROWTH.”

    He doesn’t even want to stabilise emissions, just keep them growing…

    I stand by my original comment.

  12. David B. Benson says:

    But you knew he was going to say that, didn’t you?

  13. Paul K says:

    Earl Killian. When you say we add 2.2 ppm/year you mean the whole world, not the United States. I don’t think we’ll have any problem replacing fossil in this country. There’s an alternative revolution underway here and we just have to be careful not to do anything to stand in its way. I like Joe’s approach because, for all his alarming rhetoric, his mitigation proposals are measured and designed to enhance economic activity rather than hinder it.

  14. Ken Levenson says:

    Paul K,

    And reductions in growth over the last 7 years is surely in spite of the Bush administration. While I don’t have the info on hand I’m willing to bet that any reductions are the result of State efforts. (Cheney would like nothing more than a coal power plant in every driveway.)

  15. Paul K says:

    Ken Levenson,
    Thanks for illustrating my point about the everlong search for non Bush causes of anything positive. There’s a reverse cult of the personality here, ascribing powers to the leader that do not exist. I have no idea if Bush is responsible for the reductions. I’m just glad they are happening. If your information about any Bush policy comes mainly from groups like the Center for American Progress, I hope you can concede your source has a strong (legally non-partisan) partisan bias.

  16. Joe says:

    Paul K: The world must peak in emissions before 2020. Obviously, U.S. emissions in 2020 must be below current levels. That ain’t a peak in 2025.

  17. Aqua21885 says:

    Beyond needing to peak before 2020, they also need to start declining pretty quickly if we’re going to achieve 50-85% reductions by 2050.
    Is that goal even plausible? Emissions are still growing, they have to reach a peak, then there’s a stabilization period, and then cut them in half (or more?) I feel like we are way behind in terms of needing to have already started.

  18. JCH says:

    The following factors were primary contributors to this decrease:

    (1) compared to 2005, 2006 had warmer winter conditions, which decreased consumption of heating fuels, as well as cooler summer conditions, which reduced demand for electricity,

    (2) restraint on fuel consumption caused by rising fuel prices, primarily in the transportation sector and

    (3) increased use of natural gas and renewables in the electric power sector.

  19. Earl Killian says:

    Paul K, you ignored the part where I explained “In actuality the data from single years is a bit noisy, just like climate data. We would need to see a sustained trend to say things have changed.” I.e. the 2006 (preliminary) decrease is not meaningful. Previous one year decreases occurred in 1991 and 2001, for example. 1991 and 2001 were recession years, by the way.

    And yes, my 2 ppm comment was for the whole world. Essentially all of the major emitters need to decrease emissions for the world to have a chance. The atmosphere sums everyones contribution and shares the resulting heat, unfortunately.

    You also wrote, “I don’t think we’ll have any problem replacing fossil in this country.” We won’t if can get people to understand the problem and the solutions. This is made more difficult by having people like Bush saying that all we have to do is stop emissions growth (blatantly false), and then having people like you try to defend such falsehoods.

  20. Paul K says:

    Earl Killian,
    After 8 shots of single malt and 8 beer chasers, I hope you’ll forgive any omissions. Bush does not say all we have to do is stop emissions. He has been pushing non corn ethanol R & D since day one. His energy proposals as opposed to what was passed have been strong on alternatives supporting technology deployment. Hic.

    Joe,
    I’m all for your goals if not always agreeing on the details. I also have no doubt US emissions will meet or exceed those goals almost irrespective (beyond cap/trade and economically sensible regulation) of government action. Your method of political attack is of a bygone era. Obama and McCain have both promised a respectful campaign featuring a reasoned discussion of the issues. It’s time to throw out the ways of Carville and Begala and Rove.

  21. Robert says:

    You think you’ve got problems. We’ve got “Severe storms across Mexico” in Europe.

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/img/climate/research/2008/mar/extremes-200803.gif

  22. Robert says:

    More seriously, after a chilly start to the year we now have the warmest March on record in the N hemisphere:

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/2008/mar/global.html#temp

  23. danny bloom says:

    Joe
    On May 10, the world pop will reach 6,666,666,666 people.

    In 50 more years, it will hit 8,888,888,888 people.

    So: the Global Roll Call initiative begins today:
    http://sixbillion101.blogspot.com

    PRESS RELEASE
    Contact: danbloom / gmail.com

    GLOBAL ROLL CALL SEEKS NAMES OF 6.7 BILLION INHABITANTS ON EARTH

    According to census figures, the world population on May 10 will stand
    at 6,666,666,666 people. In 50 years, some population experts say it
    will reach 8,888,888,888 and maybe even 15 billion by 2500.

    The Global Roll Call is an online initiative and thought experiment
    that is attempting, against all odds, to compile the names of all 6.6
    billion people on Earth, in more than 35 languages, from more than 150
    countries around the world.

    The Global Roll Call has set up a website where individuals may list
    their names in any language and leave comments about the Earth and
    climate change and overpopulation or any other issues they are
    concerned about.

    While the task seems impossible, the website says “nothing is
    impossible” and says it is determined to press forward with this
    non-threatening thought exercise about population statistics and what
    they might mean for the future of humankind in terms of global
    warming and climate change.

    But the initative has no climate change agenda, other than to prod
    people in thinking about the issues involved. It takes no stance on
    whether global warming is for real or a hoax.

    COMMENT BY INTERNET POSTER ON ROLL CALL:

    “We are so honored to place our names on your list.
    we love planet earth, and this is a magical way to bring awareness.
    thank you for including us in your project.
    here is our household:

    david leeson
    georgette leary
    sarah gibson
    shone wilcox

    love and light
    georgette

    http://sixbillion101.blogspot.com/

    because

    http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/popclockworld.html

  24. Nylo says:

    Do you have any idea how many people are born and die every day? It’s not like we are only adding people and the rest stays the same. A list of 6.666.666.666 names would be valid for about one tenth of a second.

    There are silly initiatives and then there is this.

  25. Danny Bloom says:

    Nylo,
    There’s more to it thanmeets the eye. Go read the blog again.
    SMILE

    \Danny\

    Speaking of 6,666,666,666 billion people on planet Earth, have you
    heard of the Global Roll Call initiative? We are attempting to compile
    a list of all the people on Earth at the present time, and it’s a
    self-nominating
    process, DIY, just visit our blog and sign your name in the comments
    section, no registration necessary and anonymous log-in okay, but
    please to read our blog
    and sign in if you wish to be included on the Global Roll Call. Maybe
    an impossible task, but there’s a method to our madness. Read on

    GOOGLE NEWS: Climate change website “Global Roll Call” to list names
    of all 6.6 billion people on Earth……
    And if some newspaper picks up the story and
    sends out an alarm by reporting the news about the Global Roll Call,
    more people might be made ……………….
    http://sixbillion101.blogspot.com

  26. Danny Bloom says:

    Joe
    Your Salon article about Solar thermal electric power was very very good. How about calling that kind of power slectric power, for S = solar, t = thermal with electric = STelectric = slectric power……? has anyone coined that word yet? easy to say and remember……instead of all those CPRs and GTHs and PRCs etc…..why not call it stelectic power

    ?

    \danny

  27. Danny Bloom says:

    i meant to type STELECTRIC power……

  28. Ken Levenson says:

    The best response to Bush’s speech I’ve seen:

    Germany slams Bush’s ‘Neanderthal’ climate speech
    http://www.thelocal.de/11363/20080417/

  29. Ken Levenson says:

    South Africa is condemning us too….we’ve come along way baby!
    http://www.sabcnews.com/world/europe/0,2172,167850,00.html