A closer look: Bush’s policies disappoint many
April 20, 2004 9:00 pm
With the media debate over the presidential election in full
force, many students are disappointed by the lack of attention
given to an issue prevalent to many — the environment.
The voting records of George W. Bush and John Kerry show their
notably different approaches toward pollution, conservation, and
other environmental issues. Kerry’s voting record has been
much more favorable than Bush’s to environmental
As the election nears, members from environmental groups say
they are trying to hold the Bush administration accountable for
what they consider to be its negative environmental impacts.
Dan Sullivan, the only California representative on the
10-member National Political Committee of the Sierra Club, said the
Sierra Club has not officially endorsed a candidate, but that
Bush’s environmental record as president is abysmal.
“There is an enormous mass of areas where the Bush
administration has made policies that seem to be negative to the
environment,” Sullivan said. “They seem to favor
short-term consumption over long-term consequences.”
Similarly, the League of Conservation Voters gave Bush a failing
grade on his environmental report card, the first president to
receive a failing grade since the league began scoring in 1970.
Kerry received a 96 percent for the same report card.
Many Republicans feel the criticism of Bush’s
environmental policies is unfair.
“Being in his position, he has to form a compromise
between the economy and the environment,” said Jennifer
Otter, the chairman of California Students for Bush. “He has
to be pragmatic.”
Otter noted how some of Bush’s environmental policies,
such as “Clear Skies” ““ a policy which set up a
market system of emission caps and trades for sulfur dioxide,
nitrogen oxides, and mercury ““ are good for the economy
because the companies do not have to spend large amounts of money
now, but can instead wait until better economic times.
Bush analysts have predicted “Clear Skies” will cut
air pollution by 70 percent over the next 15 years.
But Democrats often contend this claim and say the initiative
would actually allow pollution to increase. Although it
significantly decreases the amount of pollution allowed per million
dollars of gross domestic product, they say the overall GDP will
rise so much that it will counteract the decrease.
Sean Hecht, the executive director of UCLA’s Environmental
Law Center, also noted that while a market system of caps and trade
for pollution can be productive environmentally and economically,
it can also be problematic when dealing with a pollutant such as
Mercury, he said, tends to concentrate in hot spots near the
place it was released. If each location is not regulated
individually, some communities would bear a disproportionate
The Bush administration has also come under fire for its
rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement which
would have required the United States to reduce emissions to 7
percent below 1990 levels during the period between 2008 and
Bush has said he does not support the protocol because it would
cause great economic harm and because of the Byrd-Hagel
In 1997, the Senate passed the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, which
declared the United States would not ratify the Kyoto protocol
unless it involved meaningful contributions from developing
countries such as India and China. The resolution passed with a
vote of 95-0, including a vote of support from Kerry.
No matter who wins the election, many people now agree that the
Kyoto Protocol is a lost cause because of Byrd-Hagel and because
the protocol would require emissions reductions that might have
been feasible in 1997, but are not in 2004.
Kerry has voiced his support for some sort of international
treaty. He has also said he did not intend to kill the protocol
with his vote of support for Byrd-Hagel, but had instead wanted to
work with the protocol and fix some potential problems.
Bush has also been accused of loosening the environmental
regulations already in place at the beginning of his administration
by changing the interpretation of pre-existing laws.
“The Bush administration has a very sophisticated public
relations approach. “˜Clear Skies,’ “˜Healthy
Forests,’ it all sounds really good,” Sullivan
“(But) the changes are very subtle; they’re usually
a change in a regulation rather than a law and are announced on
Friday afternoons,” he added.