National Security Network

Energy and Environment - A National Security Legacy of Failure

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Report 8 January 2009

President Bush President Bush's Legacy climate change Energy energy security environment global warming

“Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy.”- Vice President Richard Cheney, May 1, 2001

President Bush came into office questioning the existence of climate change and staffed his administration with many climate change deniers. His administration pursued a regressive energy policy that advanced oil interests, undermined the environment, failed to modernize infrastructure, increased U.S. dependence on foreign oil every year, and undermined environmental concerns. On the global stage, the Bush administration made the United States the chief obstacle to establishing an international plan to tackle climate change.  This harmed America’s image but also served to send the message that the United States was indifferent to concerns other than its own.  Meanwhile, the potential catastrophic effects of climate change have become readily apparent. Catastrophic storms, like Hurricane Katrina, droughts affecting the southeastern United States, flooding in the midwest, and forest fires in the west all have links to climate change. While the president frequently set forth lofty goals in his more recent State of the Union addresses, little action was ever taken and no strategy was developed to address climate change and reduce America’s fossil fuel dependence.  Additionally, the disastrous foreign policy of the Bush administration, especially toward the Middle East has created instability in oil markets and placed a security premium on the price of fuel. We have lost time over the last eight years – and we are more dependent on fossil fuels than ever.

Bush's Obstinate Approach to Climate Change Has Damaged America's Relationship With Its Closest Allies

"Kyoto would have wrecked our economy. I couldn't in good faith have signed Kyoto.”- George W. Bush, June 30, 2005

A staged walk out at the UN Climate Change Conference in Montreal in 2005 epitomizes the Bush administration’s approach to climate change. In Montreal, the Bush administration orchestrated a walk out from a round of informal discussions aimed at finding new ways of curbing greenhouse gas emissions.  “The walkout was widely seen here as the capstone of two weeks of American efforts to prevent any fresh initiatives from being discussed.” [NY Times, 12/9/05]

On the Kyoto Protocol, U.S. is the “Rogue Nation.” “President Bush may have spoken loftily about American leadership on global warming, but the reality is that he has missed the boat — instead, the international community will now be focusing its efforts on bringing Washington on board, as unlikely as that may look right now.” The U.S. is now the only industrialized nation not to have signed the treaty. [TIME, 7/21/01. BBC, 4/6/01]

Bush damages relations with allies over Kyoto.  “US President George W Bush's refusal to be part of the Kyoto accord to slow down global warming has insulted his European allies and caused a serious cooling down of transatlantic relations.” [BBC, 4/6/01]

European Parliament condemns Bush on climate change. The European Parliament issued a severe condemnation of the Bush administration’s stance on the Kyoto Protocol.  In the resolution it said the EP was, “appalled that the long-term interests of most of the world's population were being sacrificed for short-term corporate greed in the US.” [BBC, 4/6/01]

America Is Dependent on Foreign Oil and Vulnerable to the Effects of Climate Change

“America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.”- George Bush, State of the Union Address 2006

We are more vulnerable to natural disasters and terrorist attacks because the Bush administration failed to modernize our energy infrastructure and diversify distribution channels.  The August 2003 blackouts served as a stark reminder of the vulnerable and antiquated nature of our energy infrastructure, yet no steps have been taken to modernize it.  Also, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita exposed the risk of storing all our strategic petroleum reserves in the Gulf Coast area, but no steps have been taken to diversify away from this region. [NSN, 5/08]

National Intelligence Council warns of the dangers from climate change. Due to concerns over “climate refugees,” unilateral resource wars, and an increase in destructive weather events the National Intelligence Council (NIC) warns America and the new President about the impact climate change can have on national security.  The “Global Trends 2025” report finds that “Many scientists worry that recent assessments underestimate the impact of climate change and misjudge the likely time when effects will be felt. Scientists currently have limited capability to predict the likelihood or magnitude of extreme climate shifts but believe—based on historic precedents—that it will not occur gradually or smoothly. Drastic cutbacks in allowable CO2 emissions probably would disadvantage the rapidly emerging economies that are still low on the efficiency curve, but large-scale users in the developed world—such as the US—also would be shaken and the global economy could be plunged into a recession or worse.”[Global Trends 2025, 11/08]

Despite east coast and midwest blackouts, the Bush administration has done little to fix vulnerabilities to America’s energy infrastructure. In 2003, Vice President Cheney said, “For the sake of our economic security and our national security, we must modernize our energy infrastructure.”  However, according to the U.S. Senate Democratic Policy Committee, “The Administration has not fully funded programs that will make our electrical grid more reliable.  The budget request for electricity reliability research and development for Fiscal Year 2007 is just over half the authorized level of $240 million.”[DPC, 2/8/06]

A Reckless Foreign Policy Hurts America's Energy Security

The Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq and its failure to manage the security situation has hurt our energy security. Since the invasion, there have been repeated attacks on Iraqi oil pipelines, facilities, and personnel, and production has stagnated at prewar levels. The invasion of Iraq also increased the threat of terrorism by creating a training, recruiting, and fundraising magnet for Islamic terrorists in the heart of the world’s most vital energy producing region. In addition, there have been frequent terrorist attacks on oil installations in the Middle East. These often spur mini-spikes in oil prices, increasing fears of vulnerability and driving-up the security premium. [Institute for Global Security, 3/27/08. NY Times, 5/11/08. Senate Joint Economic Committee, 11/11/07. CSIS, 11/30/04. Reuters, 5/31/08. Yemen Observer, 4/05/08. Fox News, 9/15/06. BBC, 2/24/06]

Ceaseless confrontation with Iran has raised costly speculation about a future oil shock.
John Kilduff observed: “Well, I think at this point, the problem we have… is statements from the President and the Vice President, almost on a daily basis lately, really raising the rhetoric, raising the temperature on the situation... And this is the mother of all supply fears, the mother of all supply threats. Not only the Iranian oil, but the Strait of Hormuz, where 25 percent of the world's oil flows, that's 100 percent Western-friendly, could easily be blocked by the Iranians.” [NewsHour, 10/26/07]

Bush Blocked Domestic Action on Climate Change and Did Little to Invest in Renewable Energy

Reporter:  “Does the President believe we need to correct our lifestyles to address the energy problem?
Ari Fleischer: “That's a big no. The President believes that it's an American way of life, and that it should be the goal of policy makers to protect the American way of life.” – Ari Fleischer, White House Press Briefing, May 7, 2001

Bush administration interferes with states to stop action on climate change.  EPA administrator Stephen Johnson refused “to let California set limits on the greenhouse gas emissions of automobiles, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency insisted before a Senate committee Thursday that climate change posed no ‘compelling and extraordinary’ risk to the state.” [Washington Post, 1/28/08]

EPA administrator left because of Bush administration’s efforts to ease pollution controls.  Bush’s first EPA administrator, Christine Whitman, left her position because of Vice President “Cheney's insistence on easing air pollution controls, not the personal reasons she cited at the time.”  [Washington Post, 6/27/07]

Cheney’s energy task force reflected interests of oil companies and ignored environmental concerns. Documents obtained in 2005 show that, “officials from Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco (before its merger with Phillips), Shell Oil Co., and BP America Inc. met in the White House complex with the Cheney aides who were developing a national energy policy, parts of which became law... The task force's activities attracted complaints from environmentalists, who said they were shut out of the task force discussions while corporate interests were present. The meetings were held in secret and the White House refused to release a list of participants.” [Washington Post, 11/16/05]

The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration tried to stop him from speaking out on climate change. James Hansen “says the administration tried to silence him after he gave a speech last month with this warning: ‘We're getting very close to a tipping point in the climate system. If we don't get off our 'business as usual' scenario and begin to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we're going to get big climate changes.’” [Washington Post, 1/29/06. ABC, 1/29/06]

Courts reject Bush administration policies on energy and environment. “A three-judge federal appeals panel in Washington struck down... the Environmental Protection Agency limits on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.” [Washington Post, 2/9/08]

The Bush administration has been all talk and no action.  The day after President Bush pledged in his State of the Union Address to “replace more than 75% of oil imports from the Middle East by 2025,” Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman quickly backed away from the pledge, saying it “was purely an example: and should not be taken literally.”  Instead, the U.S. has become more dependent on foreign oil each of the last eight years.  [NSN, 5/08]