Bush on Climate Change

Yesterday evening, President Bush delivered the annual State of the Union address. I was quite (pleasantly) surprised to hear him state that climate change was a problem, and to discuss ways to change our energy usage. I’d never heard him so openly acknowledge climate change to be a problem. The relevant section is as follows (taken from the White House transcript, emphasis mine):

Extending hope and opportunity depends on a stable supply of energy that keeps America’s economy running and America’s environment clean. For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists — who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments, and raise the price of oil, and do great harm to our economy.

It’s in our vital interest to diversify America’s energy supply — the way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power, by even greater use of clean coal technology, solar and wind energy, and clean, safe nuclear power. (Applause.) We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles, and expand the use of clean diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel. (Applause.) We must continue investing in new methods of producing ethanol — (applause) — using everything from wood chips to grasses, to agricultural wastes.

We made a lot of progress, thanks to good policies here in Washington and the strong response of the market. And now even more dramatic advances are within reach. Tonight, I ask Congress to join me in pursuing a great goal. Let us build on the work we’ve done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years. (Applause.) When we do that we will have cut our total imports by the equivalent of three-quarters of all the oil we now import from the Middle East.

To reach this goal, we must increase the supply of alternative fuels, by setting a mandatory fuels standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017 — and that is nearly five times the current target. (Applause.) At the same time, we need to reform and modernize fuel economy standards for cars the way we did for light trucks — and conserve up to 8.5 billion more gallons of gasoline by 2017.

Achieving these ambitious goals will dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but it’s not going to eliminate it. And so as we continue to diversify our fuel supply, we must step up domestic oil production in environmentally sensitive ways. (Applause.) And to further protect America against severe disruptions to our oil supply, I ask Congress to double the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. (Applause.)

America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. And these technologies will help us be better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change. (Applause.)

Some of the ideas Mr. Bush mentioned are pretty broad and he didn’t really give specific ways we could achieve these goals. Nevertheless, even promoting these goals is a great start. I also wish he didn’t place so much emphasis on technology coming to save us. I believe that it is vital that we modify our own habits as well, making changes and sacrifices ourselves. But the technology-to-the-rescue viewpoint is common in our society—for instance, people want to maintain their current eating habits and instead take a pill to control their weight. Yes, scientists will keep working on ways to combat global warming, but we’re going to have to do our part as well. It’s not enough to sit back and wait for someone else to come up with a solution.

For those interested in this topic, Jeffrey Kluger wrote an interesting article, “Bush Goes Green?”, in this week’s Time.