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Bush Directive Increases Sway on Regulation

Robert Pear, NY Times
President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.

This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats.
(29 Jan 2007)
UPDATE: Just added this item.

As David Roberts of Gristmill says, “These are not words that lend themselves to restful sleep”. Given the Administration’s record of political interference in climate change research, I would much rather that power be in the hands of civil servants and scientific experts. -BA

The Long Road to Energy Independence

Matthew L. Wald, NY Times
President Bush never used the phrase “energy independence” in his State of the Union address last week, and it is just as well. His program for cutting gasoline demand is ambitious in scope, but modest in effect, according to experts.

The reason is that the United States has fallen down a very deep well, and it’s hard to get out. Last year, the United States imported 60 percent of the oil it consumed. If, as Mr. Bush proposes, we cut gasoline consumption 20 percent by 2017 – about 2.1 million barrels a day – then the share of oil imported will fall only by 4 or 5 percentage points.

…The actual amount of ethanol produced will depend on what is technically feasible and on the price of oil. But at the rate of change suggested by the Bush plan, energy independence is about a century away.
(28 Jan 2007)

Reporters discuss president’s energy plans
(video and transcript)
Monica Trauzzi:, E&E TV
In his 2007 State of the Union address, President Bush made several energy-related proposals. Among them were decreasing U.S. gas use by 20 percent in 10 years, increasing energy independence through technology, increasing fuel efficiency and doubling the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Will these proposals affect the types of legislation Democrats introduce over the next two years, and does the budget and infrastructure exist to put these proposals into play? During today’s OnPoint, E&E Daily senior reporters Darren Samuelsohn and Ben Geman address these questions and discuss the details of the president’s energy proposals.

Monica Trauzzi: In the days leading up to the speech we heard from the White House that there would be major talk on energy. They were saying that there would be headlines above the fold. Did the speech live up to expectations and speculation?

Darren Samuelsohn: Well, my socks are still on. I think some people’s socks, as Al Hubbard said, may have been knocked off. I mean it was above the fold in the Wall Street Journal the day afterwards in terms of the energy. That was their lead paragraph. Obviously it was our lead story. It wasn’t a major change in terms of climate change policy, which we kind of knew going in, that President Bush was not going to change his position on mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions. There was increasing speculation that this was going to happen. Some people were reporting with anonymous sources, saying that there was going to be a U-turn. There were people quoting the British prime minister’s office saying that there would be a major U-turn. Ultimately there wasn’t and I think that might have been the thing that would have had a banner headline maybe across the fold.

Ben Geman: Right, but absent that carbon piece, there was, nonetheless, an element of the speech that was fairly dramatic. And that was, of course, this proposal to just radically and dramatically scale up the amount of renewable and alternative fuels used in the nation’s gasoline pool or to displace gasoline. And that got a lot of attention. It’s also raising a lot of questions. I mean, look, what he’s proposing to do is basically increase by an order of five the amount of renewable fuels. And so that immediately has people wondering, A, will there be enough funding for that? Will there be enough cropland for that? There’s a huge number of questions surrounding that one.
(25 Jan 2007)

Don’t be fooled by Bush’s defection: his cures are another form of denial

George Monbiot, Guardian
George Bush proposes to deal with climate change by means of smoke and mirrors. So what’s new? Only that it is no longer just a metaphor. After six years of obfuscation and denial, the US now insists that we find ways to block some of the sunlight reaching the earth. This means launching either mirrors or clouds of small particles into the atmosphere.

The demand appears in a recent US memo to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It describes “modifying solar radiance” as “important insurance” against the threat of climate change. A more accurate description might be important insurance against the need to cut emissions.

Every scheme that could give us a chance of preventing runaway climate change should be considered on its merits. But the proposals for building a global parasol don’t have very many. A group of nuclear weapons scientists at the Lawrence Livermore laboratory in California, apparently bored of experimenting with only one kind of mass death, have proposed launching into the atmosphere a million tonnes of tiny aluminium balloons, filled with hydrogen, every year. One unfortunate side-effect would be to eliminate the ozone layer.

Another proposal, from a scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado, suggests spraying billions of tonnes of sea-water into the air. Regrettably, the production of small salt particles, while generating obscuring mists, could cause droughts in the countries downwind.
(30 Jan 2007)