Ever since his 1995 book A Moment on the Earth I have been disappointed by Gregg Easterbrook’s message that because we have made so much progress in cleaning up our environment, we need not remain vigilant in fighting to protect our air, water, and natural places from those who would profit from their destruction. During the Bush administration’s tenure, for the first time since our environmental laws were passed, key environmental indicators (such as urban air quality and rate of cleanup of our toxic waste sites) are reversing.

Easterbrook’s latest missive, “Clear Skies, No Lies,” regurgitates arguments and statistics fabricated by the nation’s largest polluters and oft cited by the Bush-Cheney administration in its war on our environmental protections — particularly when touting its “Clear Skies” bill. He repeats the misleading statement that there is support for the Clear Skies “approach” from respectable sources, but omits the fact that those sources have merely supported a cap and trade system, not the weakened targets and timetables that are at the heart of the Clear Skies initiative itself.

He appears disingenuous or misinformed when he claims that when Clear Skies shows industry that a “sweeping” cap and trade system can be cost-effective, industry just might get on board. On the contrary, the Clean Air Act’s Acid Rain Trading Program has already demonstrated the cost-effectiveness of such programs, which is why forward-looking companies (and Senators McCain and Lieberman) are already supporting a mandatory cap and trade program to address global warming. Yet Bush-Cheney friends and donors from the nation’s biggest polluting companies have shown no inclination to get on board; indeed, they successfully lobbied Bush to reverse his campaign promise to regulate power plant emissions of global warming’s major contributor, carbon dioxide.

The 1990s showed once and for all that strong environmental protection and economic growth go hand in hand. Yet the Bush administration would have us believe that one must come at the cost of the other. Armed with the facts, we must hold our leaders accountable for their actions that threaten our air, water, and health — we must not allow times of insecurity and fear cloud what is really at stake.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.