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June 29, 2008 / Mridul

Fight Against Climate Change: US Outdone By Its Own

Falling way behind Europe in moving away from fossil fuels & towards renewable energy, United States is now being lapped down by its own. States like California and New Mexico are busy formulating policies which would ultimately help them generate a good portion of their energy needs from clean, renewable energy sources. But the Bush administration seems interested not only in mindless pursuit of oil-based energy generation but also pushing these initiatives down even before they are implemented.

While suspending solar power plants throughout America, the Bureau of Land Management argued that such plants may adversely affect the vast desert stretches where a majority of such plants are concentrated. The two year moratorium on solar projects on public land comes at a time when both President Bush & Republican Presidential nominee John McCain argue for lifting ban on offshore oil drilling. If solar power projects can have a decremental affect on the deserts lands wouldn’t the proposed offshore oil drilling pose threat to the already ‘on the edge’ marine life around the American coastlines. Who can forget the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill and the recent oil spill in the San Fransisco Bay.

EPA officials under the influence of White House have repeatedly taken dubious decisions, which have often been illogical & against the nation’s interest. Califoronia’s proposal of implementing stricter tailpipe emissions standards was squashed under the influence of Vice President Dick Cheney following a meeting of his with automobile executives last December. Even though the proposal met all criteria & had unanimous support of the EPA scientists the EPA chief Stephen Johnson rejected California’s proposal claiming it would result into confusion & was ‘unnecessary’. Working against the nation’s interest the Ozone standards set by EPA were weakened on President Bush’s behest.

EPA officials initially tried to set a lower seasonal limit on ozone to protect wildlife, parks and farmland, as required under the law. While their proposal was less restrictive than what the EPA’s scientific advisers had proposed, Bush overruled EPA officials and ordered the agency to increase the limit, according to the documents.

“It is unprecedented and an unlawful act of political interference for the president personally to override a decision that the Clean Air Act leaves exclusively to EPA’s expert scientific judgment,” said John Walke, clean-air director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

While countries around the word are framing new energy policies centered around renewable energy sources, US administration lags far behind in promotion & use of clean energy technologies. Germany, Scotland and Australia provide huge subsidies on solar panels to homeowners & small industries in contrast, US allegedly violated international rules to provide multi-billion subsidies for biofuel production at a time when experts around the world blamed increased biofuel production for the food crisis. European nations get a good percentage of their power generated from renewable energy sources whereas America gets only 2% of its total energy from renewable sources; California does better with 12%.

Terming the current situation ‘shameful’ Governor Schwarzenegger called for a renewed effort in the fight against climate change. He called for a unified action aimed at energy independence which can be achieved only by switching from fossil fuels to clean alternative fuels. He also criticized the call for suspension of offshore oil drilling moratorium claiming it wouldn’t help bring down the oil prices & would only intensify the nation’s oil addiction.

Moving even further from the Bush administration, the California Air Resources Board recently released a draft containing measures for achieving emissions standards.

Among the measures set out in the plan are proposals for utilities to produce a third of their energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar power and a high-speed rail network.

The plan also calls for simple measures such as campaigns to encourage consumers to reduce their carbon footprint through carpooling and adjusting thermostats to use less energy.

The draft also envisages full deployment of a scheme to fit solar panels onto one million roofs across the state. Car manufacturers will also be urged to build more energy-efficient vehicles to reduce, CARB said.

New Mexico too has unleashed series of initiatives living up to its nickname of the Clean Energy State. Governor Bill Richardson helped create more than three dozen incentive programs to promote green energy among the people of New Mexico. The state government also provides funding to private companies encouraging them to set up renewable energy projects in the state. But the lack of interest shown by the Congress threatens private investment in the energy sector. Being an upcoming sector it requires tax benefits which the state officials think is a political hurdle Washington would fail to cross.

It is unfortunate that the Bush administration has completely failed to take such measures on a broader, national level. The lack of political will among politicians was at full display when the recent Climate Change bill fell in the Senate. United States, as the California Governor said, has all the technological know-how & resources to trigger a ‘renewable energy revolution’ and lead rest of the world into the era of clean & affordable energy but it must overcome its political inhibitions and start take concrete steps at home.

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