the sate of our sad union

I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate the saddest day of the year than by watching the least respected American President of our generation try to buy his way out of the place in history that he’s constructed for himself by offering half-assed non-solutions to problems like healthcare and our dependence on foreign oil – things that he clearly hasn’t given a shit about these past six years.

And, just in case you thought for a moment that Bush was serious about pursuing alternative energy research, here’s a quote from today’s “Wall Street Journal” e-newsletter, the “Opinion Journal.” Describing a conference call Bush’s top advisor, Karl Rove, made this morning to 100 of the President’s most ardent supporters, editor John Fund says this:

…Mr. Rove focused on domestic policy in his remarks, saying the president will lay out bold plans to expand access to health insurance for all Americans and to reduce gasoline usage in the U.S. dramatically over the next ten years. Most of the conference call was taken up exploring the details of the speech’s energy component.

The president will set out two goals. First will be to lay out a plan to increase domestic production of oil as the nation enters what the president believes is a transition period away from fossil fuels. That will also include active promotion of nuclear power.

But the president also will spend a lot of time touting the alternative fuels he’s become enamored with: from clean coal to cellulosic ethanol to bio-diesel. He believes the country is on the cusp of a “whole series of breakthrough technologies,” Mr. Rove said. The president will not use the blunderbuss of seeking increases in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards but instead focus on encouraging the efforts of “private firms, research labs and universities” developing the new technologies.

Mr. Rove took pains to assure his audience that the administration wasn’t lavishing Manhattan Project-sized expenditures on such fuels. “Government will spend no more money but will get money to these facilities faster and without earmarks,” he told the group. The goal will be to spur market development of such technologies, not lead it…

So, if I understand that correctly, Bush plans to promote alternative fuels without devoting any additonal resources to the task, and without setting any standards for corporate America to follow. Sounds like a great plan, doesn’t it? I’m sure success (complete with flowers and chocolates) can’t be too far off.

Speaking of energy policy, global warming, and the like, I’d like to thank Jim for writing in today to recommend a great article in the “Washington Post” about the turf war taking place between the Democratic members of Congress over the issue. It seems as though Nancy Pelosi, unwilling to wait for things to run their course through Dingell’s Energy and Commerce Committee, just did an end run around them. Here’s an extended clip:

…The House Democrats had not quite finished their “100 hours” agenda when they met in the Capitol basement Thursday morning, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) was already looking ahead. As her colleagues ate bagels and turkey sausage, she warned that their next challenge would be a lot tougher than popular issues such as student loans and ethics reforms. For her next act, she planned to take on global warming.

Democrats, she explained, had to show a sense of urgency about the carbon emissions that threaten the planet, and so she was creating a select committee on energy independence and climate change to communicate that urgency. The new committee, she said, would help the caucus speak with one voice — even if it trampled the turf of existing committees…

Pelosi’s power play demonstrated her seriousness about climate, a complex issue that may be as legislatively difficult and politically treacherous as health care was in the 1990s. But it also reflected her seriousness about imposing discipline on her caucus and preventing a return to the days when long-serving Democratic chairmen ran their committees as independent fiefdoms.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Dingell (Mich.) — the longest-serving House member and a legendary defender of his committee’s prerogatives as well as the carbon-emitting auto industry of his home state — had made it clear that he expected to lead the party’s global-warming debate in a rather leisurely fashion. Pelosi was end-running him…

A few hours after Pelosi presented her plan to the caucus, Dingell convened the 31 Democrats on Energy and Commerce. Predictably, he saw Pelosi’s new committee as a recipe for duplication, incompetence and the suppression of democracy…

Even if Pelosi manages to finagle a bill through the House, there is the problem of the Senate, where global-warming skeptic James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) has lost his chairmanship to climate-conscious Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) but has threatened a filibuster. And President Bush seems unlikely to sign anything too far-reaching.

That is why some environmentalists want Pelosi to delay until she can send a bill to a more sympathetic president in 2009, and why some Democrats want her to delay so they can use the issue against Republicans in 2008…

Dingell represents the other side of the debate, the side that is quick to point out that overzealous restrictions on emissions could decimate the U.S. economy. He wants to hold extensive hearings on climate change, to investigate the problem, if in fact it is a problem, and what it might cost to try to address it. That is the way he has dealt with issues since he came to Congress during the first Eisenhower administration. He says global warming will be a priority for his committee, but clearly not the only priority.

“We’ve got Medicaid, Medicare, health insurance, prescription drugs,” Dingell said. “We’ve got leaky underground storage tanks.”

Leaky underground storage tanks? When Glacier National Park is melting?

“Superfund isn’t being properly administered,” he continued. “We have safe drinking water . . . what else?” His chief of staff, former auto lobbyist Dennis Fitzgibbons, mentions telecommunications, and Dingell is back to his list: Net neutrality. Universal service. “We have to address high-definition television, and a similar issue with regard to radio…”

Pelosi and her allies may think CO2 is more important than HDTV, but Dingell will not be rushed. He mentions that the politics of carbon are “substantially similar, if not identical” to the politics of the Clean Air Act, which required a decade of debate before it was amended in 1990 to deal with acid rain. He does not mention that his own opposition was the main obstacle to action, or that environmentalists — who had loved his work on the Endangered Species Act and other wildlife protections — dubbed him “Tailpipe Johnny” during the acid-rain debate…

Industry lobbyists say they expect to endure a lot of unpleasant climate hearings during this Congress, but they are not too worried about draconian legislation. They do not think the House or the Senate can pass anything too stringent, much less override a Bush veto. And they say their focus groups show that the public’s eagerness to do something about global warming droops after hearing warnings of serious economic consequences…

Good for Pelosi. Dingell, as we’ve said here in the past, needed a good, swift kick in the ass.

OK, time to watch the President…

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2 Comments

  1. t.d. glass
    Posted January 24, 2007 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Annotated video of the speech:

    http://thinkprogress.org/2007/01/24/annotated-sotu/

  2. mark
    Posted January 24, 2007 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    No one caught it, but I was wrong about it being the “saddest day of the year.” Apparently, the saddest day of the year was Monday, the day before the President spoke.

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