, January 28, 2008 (ENS) - In his final State of the Union Address to the nation tonight, outgoing President George W. Bush called on Congress to work with him in his remaining year to improve energy security and confront the challenge of climate change without undermining economic growth. To the president, this means developing American technology to replace imported oil with clean coal, nuclear power and renewables, a position he has maintained since early in his presidency.
"To build a future of energy security, we must trust in the creative genius of American researchers and entrepreneurs and empower them to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology," said President Bush. "Our security, our prosperity, and our environment all require reducing our dependence on oil."
President George W. Bush delivers his last State of the Union speech. Behind him are Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (Photo by David Bohrer courtesy The White House)
"Let us fund new technologies that can generate coal power while capturing carbon emissions. Let us increase the use of renewable power and emissions-free nuclear power. Let us continue investing in advanced battery technology and renewable fuels to power the cars and trucks of the future," the president said.
The president proposed a $2 billion fund that would be disbursed over the next three years to help developing nations purchase new technologies.
"Let us create a new international clean technology fund, which will help developing nations like India and China make greater use of clean energy sources," he said.
Along with contributions from other countries, this fund would increase and accelerate the deployment of all forms of cleaner, more efficient technologies, and help leverage substantial private-sector capital by making clean energy projects more financially attractive. A similar fund worth $10 billion was proposed by Japan on Saturday.
Philip Clapp, of the Pew Environment Group, called the president's proposal of a clean technology fund, "a major landmark in addressing global warming. Developing countries will need billions in financial assistance to cut the growth of their climate pollution over the next several decades," he said.
"Still, $2 billion is a very small amount of money given the scale of the problem. China alone is investing over $100 billion a year through its state-owned enterprises in new energy projects and resources, mostly in oil and coal-fired electricity," said Clapp.
In his address to Congress tonight, President Bush indicated that he supports a new treaty that would govern nations as they seek to limit global warming when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
"And let us complete an international agreement that has the potential to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases," Bush said. "This agreement will be effective only if it includes commitments by every major economy and gives none a free ride."
Bush's plan for bringing the major economies into an agreement on climate change takes another step this week with the second meeting of 17 nations which will take place Wednesday and Thursday in Honolulu, Hawaii.
These economies include rapidly developing nations India, China, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, and Mexico; other full-fledged industrial democracies Australia and South Korea; and the industrialized G8 nations.
In addition, the Bush administration will be hosting a world ministerial meeting on renewable energy here in March in Washington, DC.
Members of both Houses of Congress, the President's Cabinet and the U.S. Supreme Court justices listen to the State of the Union address. (Photo by Shealah Craighead courtesy The White House)
In their response to the president's address, in which he called for trust in the American people, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "The President repeatedly asked Congress tonight to trust the American people to create their own opportunities. But just as we must trust the American people, they must be able to share the same confidence in their leaders - and only bold action will re-establish Americans' faith in their government."
"They must be able to trust that we will lead the way for change by reducing our dependence on oil and the rising costs of health care," the Demoncrats said.
The Democratic response to the State of the Union address was delivered by Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who said political affiliation is less important than the fact that the people listening to her broadcast are "Americans, all."
And she emphasized how important environmental protection is to Americans by pointing out the Kansan chosen by First Lady Laura Bush to sit in her reserved section.
"Sitting with the First Lady tonight was Steve Hewitt, the city manager of Greensburg, Kansas. Many of you remember Greensburg - our town nearly destroyed by a tornado last year," said Sebelius.
"More than just recover," she said, "the Kansans who live in Greensburg are building green - rebuilding a better community for their children and grandchildren; making shared sacrifices, and investments for the next generation.
Greensburg is not alone. You and I stand ready - ready to protect our environment for future generations, and stay economically competitive," Sebelius said. "Mayors have committed their cities to going green; governors have joined together, leading efforts for energy security and independence; and the majority in Congress is ready to tackle the challenge of reducing global warming and creating a new energy future for America.
For John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace USA, the end of the Bush administration cannot come soon enough.
"Tonight's speech contains no new initiatives on global warming. Instead, the president recycles more of the same: more subsidies for dirty coal and dangerous nuclear power," he said.
"President Bush has courted disaster and misled the nation while the welfare of billions of people at risk from global warming hangs in the balance. From his empty campaign promises to address global warming to his unfulfilled pledge to end America's addiction to oil, Bush leaves a legacy of neglect, obstruction, and destruction," Passacantando said.
"Under his watch, greenhouse gas emissions have increased as the United States' reputation has plummeted. The damage to both the environment and the U.S.'s international standing will take years to undo," he said.
"With the president abdicating responsibility on the issue, a growing bipartisan consensus supporting a deep economy-wide cap on emissions has formed in Congress," the Greenpeace leader said. "Virtually all the leading candidates to replace him support strong action on climate change."
"President Bush will be remembered not for vision or leadership in a time of climate crisis, but for leaving America out of the race for innovative solutions. Greenpeace applauds the president's address tonight not for its style, substance or eloquence, but for the fact that it his last."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.
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