Bush Runs Away from His Environmental Record in State of the Union Speech

Commentary from the Natural Resources Defense Council

WASHINGTON (January 21, 2004) -- In last night's State of the Union address, President Bush trumpeted his administration's accomplishments from last year and outlined some of his initiatives for this one. What was most notable was that he said nary a word about the environment. Nothing, for example, about his "Healthy Forests" initiative, which will allow loggers to cut down large, fire-resistant trees miles away from where people live, or his "Clear Skies" initiative, which, if passed, would allow power plants to emit more pollution for a longer time than current law.

He did include one sentence about energy policy. "Consumers and businesses need reliable supplies of energy to make our economy run," he said, "so I urge you to pass legislation to modernize our electricity system, promote conservation, and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy." He did not explicitly call for Congress to pass the energy bill it is currently debating. It's just as well. That bill would not modernize the electricity grid, promote conservation or make the country less dependent on foreign energy sources. NRDC would agree with the president that the criteria he spelled out are necessary ingredients for a sensible energy policy. We called for such a policy three years ago when we released "A Responsible Energy Policy for the 21st Century".

The fact that President Bush avoided mentioning his administration's environmental policies could be seen as a tacit admission that his record is deplorable and the issue is a vulnerable one for him (see the Bush Record). Polls show that the majority of Americans believe he is more interested in protecting his corporate campaign contributors than public health and the environment.