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The Selling of an Energy Policy

An Op-Ed Piece for The New York Times

By AL GORE April 21, 2002

NASHVILLE Under the presidency of George W. Bush, the environmental and energy policies of our government are completely dominated by a group of current and former oil and chemical company executives who are trying to dismantle America's ability to force them to reduce the extremely dangerous levels of pollution in the earth's atmosphere.

The first step was to withdraw from the agreement reached in Kyoto to begin limiting worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases. Then the administration cancelled an agreement requiring automobile companies to make the leap to more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Other acts of sabotage are taking place behind the scenes. Just as Enron executives were allowed to interview candidates for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and to veto those they didn't think would approve of Enron's agenda ExxonMobil has been allowed to veto the United States government's selection of who will head the prestigious scientific panel that monitors global warming. Dr. Robert Watson, the highly respected leader of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, was blackballed in a memo to the White House from the nation's largest oil company. The memo had its effect last Friday, when Dr. Watson lost his bid for re-election after the administration threw its weight behind the "let's drag our feet" candidate, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri of New Delhi, who is known for his virulent anti-American statements.

Why is this happening?

Because the largest polluters know their only hope for escaping restrictions lies in promoting confusion about global warming.

Just as Enron needed auditors who wouldn't blow the whistle when the company lied about the magnitude of its future liabilities, the administration needs scientific reviews that won't sound the alarm on the destruction of the earth's climate balance.

How long they get away with it depends on how long they can sow confusion and doubt. But with folks wearing bikinis in Boston in the middle of April and with the massive melting of ice at both poles and in nearly every mountain glacier on earth, public awareness and concern are growing rapidly.

At a time when the world needs enduring leadership from the United States to rally all nations to join in a concerted effort to stop global warming, the administration is working overtime to block any progress whatsoever.

So tomorrow, on this Earth Day, more than ever before, we need real, forward-thinking leadership and a renewed focus on the environment. True leadership means ensuring that we take the necessary steps to leave a cleaner environment for generations to come and that means strengthening environmental protections.

Instead, this administration's so-called Clean Skies initiative actually increases air pollution levels by allowing more toxic mercury, nitrogen oxide and sulfur emissions than does current law. Put simply, on the environment, this administration has consistently sold out America's future in return for short-term political gains.

True leadership means guaranteeing our national security and role as a world leader and one of the best ways to do this is by decreasing our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, so that America cannot be held hostage to oil imports and tinhorn tyrants like Saddam Hussein. But instead this administration is now investing less in energy innovation and conservation and more in corporate subsidies for oil exploration and extraction and nuclear power.

True leadership means assuring an economy that rewards innovation and productivity. We can do so by leading the world in investments in technological innovations that will result in environment-friendly products like more efficient cars and renewable energy sources. Such investments would open up the door for new economic growth. But this administration is taking only those steps that increase our addiction to fossil fuels and outdated and inefficient technologies.

On all these fronts, this administration has walked away from the tough choices and has instead chosen to subsidize the solutions of the past. Instead of leading, it has attempted to mislead. Instead of sharing a vision with the people, the administration has given access to special interests.

We can return to the path of progress, on which we value economic growth that rewards innovation and productivity and meets the needs of our families and of national security. We can return to the days of record growth coupled with record improvement in the air we breathe. We can return to true leadership on the environment.

We ought to look at the environment as a critical piece of the nation we will be. I urge Americans to re-engage in a forward-looking discussion of how to secure our nation's energy needs while pursuing environmental policies that will make us safer, more efficient and more respectful stewards of our planet and our nation's great potential. April 21, 2002

-- Cherri (whatever@who.cares), June 03, 2002

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