Environmentalists are unimpressed with George Bush's pledge to develop alternative sources of energy - accusing him of failing to confront the real issues driving climate change.
In his address on Tuesday, Mr Bush called for a large boost in the
production of alternative fuels, along with an increase in efficiency
standards for petrol-engine vehicles. "These technologies will help us
be better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the
serious challenge of global climate change," he said.
GREENPEACE: BUSH REMAINS DELUSIONAL
A graphic showing the consumption of CO2 per person per year in various regions around the world. Opinion polls in many countries say climate change is now a concern that citizens often place just after unemployment, terrorism or a similarly key issue of prosperity or survival.(AFP Graphic)
Mr Bush recommended a five-fold increase in the production of ethanol and
other alternative fuels. He said that increase in production - up to 35
billion gallons by 2017 - would replace about 15 per cent of annual petrol
use. Taken with other reforms, including an annual4 per cent increase in
vehicle efficiency standards starting in 2010, Mr Bush said his plan could
reduce petrol consumption by 20 per cent over the next decade.
But activists said yesterday that however impressive Mr Bush's plans may
have sounded - especially given his reputation for intransigence over issues
such as the Kyoto treaty - they offered little in substance.
"There is no revolution in global warming policy in anything the
President is proposing, no matter how the White House tries to spin it,"
said Philip Clapp, the president of the National Environmental Trust. "
The numbers are calculated to sound big and impressive but the President is
being just as intransigent on global warming as he is on Iraq, ignoring
Congress, major business leaders, and the public, who have called for action.
He added: "The President's proposals will contribute almost nothing to
stopping global warming. They will allow our carbon emissions to grow by 14
per cent over the next 10 years."
Others welcomed Mr Bush's acknowledgement of the threat of global warming
but warned that some of his proposals could do more harm than good.
"Wrongheaded approaches would prove counter-productive - we could end
up with somewhat more efficient vehicles running on much dirtier fuels that
further accelerate global warming," said Frances Beinecke, the
president of the Natural Resources Defence Council. "Turning coal into
liquid transportation fuel, for instance, would generate nearly twice the
amount of global-warming pollution that today's petroleum-based fuels do.
"Similarly, producing alternative fuels such as ethanol from wood chips
that come from endangered forests could inflict widespread ecological damage.
Environmentalists remain sceptical of the benefits of ethanol production,
which would provide a boost to US corn growers but which may do little to
ease carbon emissions. While burning ethanol produced by corn is "
carbon neutral" - it releases the carbon it has stored during its
growth - production of ethanol requires fossil fuels. "Transportation
of the fuels, processing of the fuels - all that requires energy which is
currently driven by a fossil-fuel economy. So all these biofuels projects
currently add to the greenhouse-gas effect," said Jan Kowalzig of
Friends of the Earth Europe.
Campaigners said it was of equal importance that Mr Bush failed to talk
about a cap on carbon emissions - something his administration has always
opposed, despite calls for such a limit both inside and outside the US. "
He remains delusional," Greenpeace's Steve Sawyer told the Agence France
Presse news agency.
Others welcomed Mr Bush's comments. Sir Nicholas Stern, the chief economic
adviser to the British Government and the author of a report that warned of
the rising costs of climate change, said at the World Economic Forum in
Davos, Switzerland: "There is a recognition of the link between climate
change and human activity. You have to recognise what everyone is doing."
The idea behind biofuel is that you are exploiting a sustainable source of
energy in the form of the carbohydrates stored within a cereal crop - in
this case, maize.
Plants are able to convert the energy of sunlight into carbohydrates by the
process of photosynthesis, which also led to fossil fuel production hundreds
of millions of years ago.
The carbohydrates of biofuel crops are fermented into ethanol, that can be
burnt in car engines converted for the task. It produces less pollution than
petrol but still emits greenhouse gases.
In theory, the process should not add to the overall level of atmospheric
CO2 - subsequent biofuel crops would absorb most of the emissions when they
are growing. But industrialised countries rely on fossil fuel to farm arable
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