At a July 3 briefing, White House press secretary Dana Perino made the bizarre claim that the United States has “actually” reduced “actual emissions” of greenhouse gases, complaining that President Bush “gets absolutely no credit at all.” Perino had taken a question about global warming negotiations at this week’s G8 summit in Japan. The questioner noted that “global warming experts who are usually quite critical of the administration” see a “glimmer of hope.” Her reply:
Well, I think — when I read those quotes this morning, you could have knocked me over with a feather, too, because the President gets absolutely no credit for all that he has done here in our own country, because we have actually been able to reduce actual emissions from our country, even though our economy has grown over the past several years.
Perino is flat wrong. Under President Bush’s tenure, global warming emissions by the United States rose from 6.98 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2000 to 7.08 billion metric tons in 2006. The only contribution Bush made to limiting the growth in emissions was mismanaging the economy, since a weak economy produces less pollution than a strong one, all things being equal.
Perino is on shaky ground pointing out that “our economy has grown.” The anemic growth of the Bush economy is based on an unsustainable massive expansion of consumer and household debt. Skyrocketing corporate profits have come at the expense of a collapsing manufacturing sector and the incomes of most Americans.
The decimation of manufacturing and skyrocketing energy prices under Bush have limited the rise of global warming pollution under his tenure, but without any other benefits. Much greater reductions of gasoline use could have been achieved by increasing the fuel economy of cars on the road, which would have also spurred technological innovation, made US auto manufacturers more competive in the global market, and kept billions of dollars from flowing to oil countries overseas. But conservatives blocked increases in fuel economy standards for 32 years. Similarly, if the federal government had made strong investments in building a green-collar economy instead of tax breaks for oil companies, the United States manufacturing sector might not have become a shadow of its former self.
At practically every turn, policy decisions made by the Bush administration — tax cuts for the superwealthy, stoking of the housing bubble, the reckless invasion of Iraq, the abandonment of our state and local infrastructure — have weakened our nation’s economy and made us less prepared for the threat of global warming.
Perino complained that “the President gets absolutely no credit for all that he has done here in our own country.” In the coming years, Bush will be very lucky if people forget “all that he has done.”