Now, I realize President Bush has taken a lot of shots for his lack of attention to the problem of global warming. “Some people” have even accused his administration of a deliberate policy of censorship and deceit when it comes to this vital issue.
Fortunately for us, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Dave Johnson, is here to set the record straight. As he explained yesterday, the Bush policy on Climate Change is saving the world:
WASHINGTON (AP) – The head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday the growth of greenhouse gases by less than 1 percent in 2005 shows the administration’s program to address global warming “is delivering real results.” […]
“The Bush administration’s unparalleled financial, international and domestic commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is delivering real results,” Johnson proclaimed in a statement.
“As America’s economy continues to grow, our aggressive yet practical strategy is putting us on track to reach President Bush’s goal to reduce our nation’s greenhouse gas intensity 18 percent by 2012,” he continued.
Now some of you might be wondering how an overall increase in greenhouse gas emission is a sign of success. An increase, after all, means more, not less, greenhouse gases were pumped into the earth’s atmosphere by Americans. Some of you might even suspect that Mr. “We’re Winning the War against Global Warming the Bush Way” Johnson is perhaps talking out of the side of his mouth when he touts an increase in carbon emissions as a good thing. Well, those of you who simply refuse to believe that George Bush really gives a curled up dog turd about protecting the environment, are not without a few scientists and other “alarmists” who share your skepticism:
The NAAQS [National Ambient Air Quality Standards]process was unique in the EPA by allowing scientists, inside and outside the agency, to pore over data, exchange reports, and eventually arrive at a consensus range of acceptable pollution levels. Then, that range was sent to EPA policymakers, who settled on a number. Now the process is open to policymakers’ influence early on. The EPA calls it a streamlining maneuver, but environmentalists and public health advocates are crying foul, noting that the rule change topped the wish list of the American Petroleum Institute.
That change comes on the heels of another controversial move by the EPA: It rejected scientists’ recommendation to toughen standards for particulate matter, or soot, a NAAQS pollutant linked to serious heart and respiratory ailments. “For the first time ever,” says Blake Early of the American Lung Association, “the EPA really ignored the health basis for setting the standard.”
Bush’s Two Big Lies
There are two hidden lies in the way the EPA is spinning an increase in carbon emissions for 2005 as a success story. The first lie is a lie of omission. What happened in 2005 that might have had an impact on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that Americans released? Well, if you said Hurricane Katrina and increased oil and gas prices, you’re smarter than the average Fox News watcher:
Greenhouse gas emissions have been increasing an average of 1.2 percent a year since 1990, according to the Energy Department, and the smaller increase in 2005 may have had little to do with Bush’s climate policy.
“The slow growth in emissions from 2004 to 2005 can be attributed mainly to higher energy prices that suppressed demand, low or negative growth in several energy-intensive industries, and weather-related disruptions,” the Energy Department said in a separate report on greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina disrupted oil and natural gas supplies from the Gulf of Mexico, causing gasoline prices to jump briefly well above $3 a gallon and caused havoc in a number of industries that rely heavily on natural gas.
Who knew the Bush climate change policy involved praying to God for a Hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast? And to think I doubted the power of prayer. But seriously, the Energy Department must not have gotten the memo, because they just exposed Dave Johnson, EPA Head Honcho, as a liar. Bush’s policies had little or nothing to do with the slowing the rate of increased carbon emissions in the US in 2005. And remember, we’re still talking about an increase, when what we really need are decreases across the board by industry, commercial and private sources of emissions.
The second lie? That’s in the way the Bush administration has chosen to measure success in cutting carbon emissions. Note the phrase Dave Johnson used when speaking about goals the Bush administration has set for itself: a reduction in “greenhouse gas intensity.” What the hell is that? Well, one thing for certain, it isn’t equivalent to an overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Greenhouse Gas Intensity is a phony metric that compares the rate of US greenhouse Gas emissions to the growth rate of the US economy. For example, over the past 15 years, US emissions have increased 16%. However, in that same period the US economy has grown 55%. Thus, Bush can claim that greenhouse gas intensity actually declined during those 15 years. On the surface that sounds like a great result. It’s only when you learn that in actuality our carbon emissions increased do you realize how misleading the metric of greenhouse gas intensity can be.
But don’t take my word for it. Here’s how <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/views02/0215-07.htm
“>Paul Krugman described the administration’s “shell game” that results when it uses “greenhouse gas intensity” as a replacement for the measure of total greenhouse gas emissions:
What is this thing called greenhouse gas intensity? It is the volume of greenhouse gas emissions divided by gross domestic product. The administration [of George Bush] says that it will reduce this ratio by 18 percent over the next decade. But since most forecasts call for G.D.P. to expand 30 percent or more over the same period, this is actually a proposal to allow a substantial increase in emissions.
Still, doesn’t holding the growth of emissions to less than the growth of the economy show at least some effort to face up to climate change? No, because that would happen anyway. In fact, the administration’s target for reduction in greenhouse gas intensity might well be achieved without any policy actions – which is good news, because the administration hasn’t really proposed any.
The reasons greenhouse gas intensity tends to fall over time are complex, but the basic logic is simple: We are gradually becoming a post-industrial society, in which knowledge and service industries grow faster than the old smokestack sector. Because pushing bits around doesn’t take as much energy as pushing around large pieces of sheet metal, a dollar of new-economy G.D.P. generally doesn’t require burning as much carbon as a dollar of old-economy G.D.P.
But the old economy is still there, and the new economy still uses significant amounts of energy — especially if office workers drive S.U.V.’s long distances on their way from house to mouse and back. So as the economy grows, greenhouse gas intensity may fall, but greenhouse gas emissions — which are what damages the planet — continue to rise.
Isn’t that great! We can actually substantially increase the amount of our total carbon emissions, yet still claim th have met our goal of reducing greenhouse gas intensity. In short, we can feel good about doing nothing whatsoever to curb the emissions that cause global warming and climate change. What a country, eh? But I digress …
My point is that once you make allowances for the lies embedded in the EPA’s “good news” story about greenhouse gas emissions, you realize that this isn’t really such good news at all. It’s just the same old “cow pie” delivered to the news media in a shiny red ribbon and bow while a loyal Bushie drones on in the background about “how sweet it smells” and “how lucky we are that George W. Bush is on the job saving the planet.” Oh, the reporters who write about this will offer the opposing views of “environmentalists” for balance, but they will add no analysis indicating who is right and who is full of it. That’s the job of modern journalism these days: mindless stenography.
You and I now know, however. So pass it on. Bush and his loyal “Bushie” heading up the EPA are lying to the American public when they say they’ve made real progress in reducing greenhouse gases. All they’ve succeeded at is fooling the gullible and the uninformed.