The myth of George W. Bush's Earth Day 

On Earth Day, Bush walked in the Adirondack Mountains of New York and promised locals there that he has a new policy on air pollution that will clean up the acid rain that has killed half their lakes and rivers.

People believe Bush has been a good leader in the war on terrorism, and they want to believe him on the environment, too.

But his speeches are contradicted by the Republican policies coming out of the House and Senate, which he pushes. In fact, Bush's choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency's clean air program, Jeffrey Holmstead, is a former lawyer for the Chemical Manufacturers Association and an adjunct at Citizens for the Environment, a group that has labeled acid rain a "myth," according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

And Bush's new policy will weaken the existing Clean Air Act. Common sense tells us we need new drilling and better fuel efficiency technology. Tell that to our Colorado Senators Wayne Allard and Ben Nighthorse Campbell. They joined other Republicans and the president and his appointed Interior Secretary Gale Norton in pushing for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and for billions in tax subsidies to oil companies while opposing an increase in fuel efficiency standards.

Better mileage technology could have saved up to 1 million barrels of oil a day, equivalent to current imports from Iraq and Kuwait combined.

On the other hand, the Democratic-led Senate, with the help of eight Republicans, voted against opening the ANWR because they saw it as a flimsy stop-gap. Think about this while Allard is running for re-election this fall.

Bush also said his energy plan offered tax incentives for people using alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind power, but his budget cut funding for the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado. Allard voted for that plan.

Most Republicans, including Allard, want to relax water and air pollution regulations, as does the president. In a CNN interview during last year's California energy shortage, Bush said, "If there's any environmental regulations that's preventing California from having a 100 percent max output at their plants -- as I understand there may be -- then we need to relax those regulations."

If you think, as a majority of Americans do, that the president is doing a good job, you still have a duty to be discerning enough to also elect a United States senator from Colorado that can focus on environmental issues in the balance.

Allard wholeheartedly supports Vice President Dick Cheney's energy plan (which President Bush signed-off on, and was written largely by oil industry executives that Cheney used to work with when he was one himself).

Of the plan, Allard has said, "Colorado is going to be a beneficiary. We have natural resources." That is a very short-term gain; we'd be better off to become leaders in the world market of alternative energy technology. Yet the U.S. is far behind in this profitable area.

In addition to bad energy policy, there is a lack of protection of drinking water sources in our national forests. To oversee 156 national forests, Bush appointed a 20-year veteran of big timber trade associations, Mark Rey, who strongly opposes the National Forest Roadless Area Conservation policy which would protect one-third of our forests from logging, mining and other water polluting activities.

Having marked another Earth Day this week, let's remember the words of our president. Bush has said, "If you own your own land, every day is Earth Day," referring to his beloved ranch at Crawford, Texas.

But the president's appointments to agencies that overlook our public lands, air and water, are in turn hiring their own anti-environment assistant managers and none are doing what Bush says in his speeches.

That is why we need a Senate and House of Representatives that can concentrate on environmental policy to improve our future -- and leave industry to look after their profits and landowners to look after their ranches.

Pat Conley is a Colorado Springs community volunteer and follower of national environmental issues.


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