Hydrogen Powers Bush State of the Union Address
WASHINGTON, DC, January 28, 2003 (ENS) - President George W. Bush used his State of the Union Address tonight to propose $1.2 billion in research funding to develop hydrogen fuel technologies. With those funds, "America can lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen powered automobiles," he said. The President's first State of the Union speech to mention the environment focused on his goal of promoting energy independence for the country, while "dramatically improving" the environment.
President Bush addressed a joint session of Congress tonight, detailing the situation in which the United States finds itself today and what should be done to improve things. The President devoted most of his State of the Union Address to explaining why the United States is gearing up for war in Iraq.
"Today, the gravest danger in the war on terror, the gravest danger facing America and the world, is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons," warned President Bush. His budget contains almost $6 billion to quickly make available effective vaccines and treatments against agents like anthrax, botulinum toxin, Ebola, and plague. "We must assume that our enemies would use these diseases as weapons, and we must act before the dangers are upon us," he said.
The President's second goal is high quality, affordable health care for all Americans, and he pledged an additional $400 billion in his 2003 budget to be spent over the next decade to reform and strengthen Medicare.
President Bush said his administration's third goal, energy independence, could mean that the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution free.
The President said in his address that in this century, "the greatest environmental progress will come about not through endless lawsuits or command-and-control regulations, but through technology and innovation."
His 1.2 billion hydrogen fuel cell research plan is intended to make the United States a world leader in this technology. "A single chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen generates energy, which can be used to power a car - producing only water, not exhaust fumes," the President told the legislators and their guests. "With a new national commitment, our scientists and engineers will overcome obstacles to taking these cars from laboratory to showroom."
"I have sent you a comprehensive energy plan to promote energy efficiency and conservation, to develop cleaner technology, and to produce more energy at home," the President told the assembled legislators. "I have sent you Clear Skies legislation that mandates a 70 percent cut in air pollution from power plants over the next 15 years."
President Bush stressed his Healthy Forests Initiative, which allows expanded logging in national forests is good for the environment. This logging will help to "prevent the catastrophic fires that devastate communities, kill wildlife, and burn away millions of acres of treasured forest."
The Democratic response to the State of the Union Address was delivered by Washington Governor Gary Locke. He called environmental protection a tremendous bipartisan success story over three decades because air and water are cleaner. But these gains are being eroded by the Bush administration Governor Locke warned. "In communities in my state and yours, conservation is a way of life," he said. "But the administration is determined to roll back much of this progress. Our nation should lead global efforts to promote environmental responsibility - not shun them. And instead of opening up the Alaskan wilderness to oil drilling, we should be committed to a national policy to reduce our dependence on oil by promoting American technology and sustainability."
Concern marked the response of William Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society. "We applaud his proposed investment in clean hydrogen fuel cell cars, energy conservation and efficiency, said Meadows, "and we look forward to the long term results of these propositions. Unfortunately, the president's statements about energy and forests did nothing to allay our deep concerns about the Administration's environmental agenda."
The National Environmental Trust greeted the President's announcements with suspicion. "This is the first time President Bush has mentioned the environment in a State of the Union, and the reason is simple," said Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, his poll numbers with the swing voters he needs in 2004 - women, independents and suburban voters - are dropping. This was window-dressing pure and simple. After two years of rolling back environmental protections, he has discovered there's a cost.
"President Bush's environmental promises always come with a Buyer Beware sign," said Clapp.
Clapp called the President's hydrogen development plan too small to make much headway. "President Bush ridiculed Al Gore's proposal that we replace the internal combustion engine with new technologies. Tonight he proposed a modest plan that won't make much difference to promote the very technologies he made fun of two years ago."
But the President called his environmental program a "crucial step" and urged the lawmakers to pass these measures, "for the good of both our environment and our economy."