State of the Union Falls Short on Energy

Stat of the Union Address Washington, D.C.—The energy and climate initiatives announced in U.S. President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address on Tuesday left the White House well behind the growing public and business momentum for an overhaul of U.S. energy policy. The proposals lacked both the breadth and the specificity needed to cope with the twin problems of energy security and global warming, and leaves national leadership on the issue up to Congress.

The centerpiece of the president’s energy proposal is the dramatic and laudable goal of cutting gasoline consumption by 20 percent within a decade, but the mix of policies and technologies he would use to get us there isn’t clear. The president’s support for accelerated development of renewable fuels and improved fuel economy is headed in the right direction, but fuel economy still appears to be getting the short end of the stick in administration priorities. The U.S. Congress will need to pass strong new fuel economy and renewable fuel mandates if the president’s goals for increased energy independence are to avoid the fate of similar proposals by at least five previous presidents.

Beyond biofuels, the array of other promising renewable energy sources—including solar energy, wind power, and geothermal energy—received only a mention in the president’s speech, and is generally ignored in his detailed energy plan. It will therefore fall to Congress to develop the kind of solid, far-reaching national commitment to renewable resources and efficiency that will be needed to fuel a strong domestic economy and lower the consumption of oil and other fossil fuels.

For those who were hoping that President Bush would announce a u-turn in climate policy, his glancing reference to “the challenge of climate change” was a disappointment. The president’s speech came a day after CEOs of leading U.S. corporations called for a mandatory “cap” on U.S. emissions, but it is clear the administration is still not ready to take the lead on an issue it has stubbornly refused to address for the last six years. So, once again, it is up to Congress to pass the kind of strong new legislation that will allow the United States to catch up with the policies being enacted by other nations—and by many U.S. states.

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Notes to editors:

The following experts are available for media interviews on the State of the Union address (Contact Us) :
Chris Flavin, President, Worldwatch Institute
Janet Sawin, Director, Energy and Climate Change Program, Worldwatch Institute
Suzanne Hunt, Biofuels Project Manager, Worldwatch Institute

For additional information:
State of the World 2007: Our Urban Future
Vital Signs 2006—2007
American Energy: The Renewable Path to Energy Security
Biofuels for Transportation: Global Potential and Implications for Sustainable Agriculture and Energy in the 21st Century
REN 21 Renewables Global Status Report—2006 Update