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Bush’s Smog Screen?

BU prof says president missed the mark on climate change

Click on the player at the bottom of this story to hear Cutler Cleveland, a professor at BU’s Center for Energy and Environmental Studies, discuss President Bush’s strategy to confront global warming.

“Bush Set to Tackle Global Warming,” ran a Boston Globe headline the day before the president’s State of the Union address earlier this week. It was big news, especially from the administration of a former Texas oilman who rejected the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

In his speech, Bush called for America to “confront the serious challenge of global climate change,” and he set a goal of cutting the nation’s gasoline usage by 20 percent in the next decade. But for many, the president didn’t go nearly far enough.

For instance, the day before Bush’s address, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of environmentalists and CEOs from top corporations, including General Electric, BP America, Alcoa, and DuPont, called for a program of mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions. The president opposes such caps, but the new Democratic Congress may soon write them into legislation, along with much tougher gas mileage standards for cars and trucks.

For Cutler Cleveland, a College of Arts and Sciences professor of geography and environment, the most “glaring omission” from Bush’s energy agenda was any substantial initiative to reduce the country’s appetite for energy. It’s a discussion Cleveland believes is overdue. Last year, in fact, a few weeks after declaring that America is “addicted to oil,” Bush submitted a budget request to Congress that cut $100 million from federal energy conservation programs.

“No American president since Jimmy Carter has chosen to engage the American public in a debate about how we use energy — how we live, how we consume material goods and services, what types of cars we drive, how far away we live from work,” says Cleveland. “If you’re not going to tackle the demand side, then you really aren’t going to make a serious, substantive dent in improving our energy situation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Chris Berdik can be reached at cberdik@bu.edu.