To hear some environmentalists tell it you'd think President Bush's most sacrosanct campaign promise was to make the nation's power plants reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Since Bush signaled last week he wouldn't regulate the emissions there have been howls of outrage, not only from some environmentalists but from everybody with an ax to grind against the GOP president.
This reaction shows how special interests which promote elite media-friendly issues can "spin" a routine change-of-policy story into something akin to violating the public trust.
The environmental candidate last fall was Al Gore, not Bush. Neither the environmental lobby nor the elite media applauded, or even took notice of, Bush's Sept. 29 energy speech in which he lumped carbon dioxide among a host of more noxious emissions that need to be curbed.
According to The Wall Street Journal and other reports, this was the only time Bush mentioned including carbon dioxide as a pollutant the government should regulate. The fact that it was in the speech was probably a speechwriter's mistake the staff should have caught before Bush spoke.
By no stretch of the imagination can his carbon dioxide remarks be compared with his pledges to lower taxes and boost defense - his two primary campaign themes. The president did handle the matter clumsily, clarifying his position only after his EPA chief, Christine Todd Whitman, ran her mouth off quoting the Sept. 29 as evidence of the president's steadfastness.
Indeed, if Whitman hadn't drawn attention to Bush's remarks they'd probably still be unnoticed and unremarked.
It's important to note that in Bush's letter to the Senate, he doesn't back down on other emission controls or deny that global warming is a serious environmental problem. He does make the point, however, that with an economy struggling to stay out of recession, rolling blackouts in California, and the OPEC cartel jacking up oil prices, the nation faces more of an energy than an environmental crisis.
Sometimes difficult tradeoffs have to be made - and this is one of them. A Department of Energy study confirms that tightening carbon dioxide emissions now would send energy costs even higher.
Bush is right. Carbon dioxide occurs naturally in nature and is not harmful to human health. The odorless, colorless, incombustible gas should not be included for now as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
And the president's critics should stop polluting the air with their rants that he broke a sacred campaign pledge. Don't forget he also pledged to make the U.S. less dependent on foreign energy by expanding domestic energy sources.