Last night, as President Bush stepped to the well of the House floor to deliver his final State of the Union address, at least one thing was clear -- this president is a big fan of recycling. Unfortunately, I am not talking about the plastics and glass in my bottle bill, but the retooling of old rhetoric on global warming and our energy future. Here is my attempt to inject a little reality into the old Bush rhetoric rolled out in the State of the Union: Bush claim: "To build a future of energy security, we must trust in thecreative genius of American researchers and entrepreneurs andempower them to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology. Our security, our prosperity, and our environment allrequire reducing our dependence on oil." Reality: President Bush threatened a veto on the tax portion of the recently-passed energy bill, which included major incentives for a new generation of clean energy -- incentives that would have heralded a new era in green technology development. The Bush veto threat also killed the Renewable Electricity Standard which would have required that up to 15 percent of our electricity be generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2020. He also opposes any mandatory cap-and-trade bill that would unleash the technology to meet the climate challenge by setting a price on carbon emissions.
Congress is about to confront the challenge of coal, and much of what we hope to do to reduce the threat of global warming hinges on these decisions. There's a useful test to use whenever the challenges of fossil fuel dependence and global warming come up: We must reduce the threat of global warming without worsening our dependence on foreign oil; and we must reduce the threat of oil dependence without worsening global warming. When it comes to coal, it's that second part of the equation that brings up some sticky issues. Coal has been a big part of our energy mix, providing the majority of our electricity since the invention of the electric light. It has been a principal source of energy since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution -- a revolution that provided the basis for our economic prosperity, but also produced exponential pollution growth that was the genesis of the global warming issues we face today. Now is the time for a new Green Revolution. We must combine the economic reforms of a new industrial revolution based on clean energy development with the moral imperative to protect the planet. But where does that leave coal? Can our reliance on these carbon-packed nuggets of energy survive while we try to ensure the planet survives as well?