Environment? What Environment?

Election '04

None of the speeches made in New York have addressed, or even mentioned, the environment. First Lady Laura Bush spoke about watching her husband "wrestling with these agonizing decisions that would have such profound consequence for so many lives and for the future of our world."

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recalled coming to the United States from Austria and becoming a Republican after listening to President Richard Nixon speak because he "sounded more like a breath of fresh air."

Education Secretary Rod Paige defended the No Child Left Behind program under which, he said, "States, not Washington, set the standards. Schools that need assistance get assistance."

Opening the convention on Monday night, Senator John McCain spoke of the necessity of war in Iraq. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D. spoke of medicine and drugs and denigrated trial lawyers.

But there was no mention of natural resource conservation, or energy, forests, water, oil, oceans, chemical contamination or the environmental causes of disease.

The Republican Party platform, approved by the convention on Monday, includes several statements of environmental policy most related to the supply of energy – support for drilling in the Arctic, for a revival of the nuclear power industry, for clean coal and hydrogen research.

It hails the record of President George W. Bush in "incorporating appropriate labor and environmental concerns into U.S. trade negotiations," and facing with China "shared health and environmental threats, such as the threat of HIV/AIDS, SARS, and other infectious diseases...."

It upholds the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which declares "private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation." This clause has been used to require compensation when an environmental regulation reduces the value of property or makes any part of a parcel of property unusable. "We oppose efforts to diminish the rights of private citizens to the land they own," the platform states.

The platform urges Congress to pass the President's energy bill, which "includes over 100 recommendations, nearly half of which addressed renewable energy, energy efficiency, and conservation." The policy statement warns that "Recent electricity blackouts, the California energy crisis, natural gas and oil price spikes, and high gasoline prices remind us that only a comprehensive energy policy will produce energy stability for America's families and businesses."

The future of energy lies in clean coal research and development and President Bush's Clear Skies Initiative which "would create a $50 billion private market to deploy these clean coal technologies," the Republican platform says.

The policy statement supports FutureGen, a $1 billion initiative to build the world's first zero-emissions fossil fuel plant that integrates carbon sequestration and hydrogen production research. A hydrogen economy would be of "enormous benefit" and put the United States on "the cutting edge of energy technology," the platform says.

The FreedomCar Partnership and Hydrogen Fuel Initiative include $1.7 billion over five years to begin building hydrogen cars and the infrastructure to support them is part of this platform plank.

Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should move ahead immediately using "sophisticated technologies," says the Republican platform.

"Our Party continues to support energy development in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, holds as much as 16 billion barrels of oil – enough to replace oil imports from Saudi Arabia for nearly 20 years. The drilling footprint can be confined to just 2,000 acres (the entire refuge contains 19 million acres), about the size of Washington's Dulles Airport, on ice roads that melt away in the summer, leaving little trace of human intervention. We have already wasted precious time."

"If the previous Administration had not vetoed the ANWR proposal passed by the Republican Congress in 1995, at this moment ANWR would be producing up to one million barrels of oil a day," the platform states, referring to the administration of President Bill Clinton.

Natural gas development is endorsed. Republicans strongly support removing unnecessary barriers to domestic natural gas production and expanding environmentally sound production in new areas, such as Alaska and the Rocky Mountains. "Increasing supply, including the construction of a new natural gas pipeline from Alaska to the lower 48, will bring needed relief to consumers and make America's businesses more competitive in the global marketplace," the platform states.

Establishment of mandatory, enforceable reliability rules for electric utilities to reduce the likelihood of future blackouts is part of the platform; a reference to the blackout of August 2003 that left some 50 million people in the northeast and Canada without power for up to 48 hours.

Republicans say they support renewable energy through extension of the production tax credit for wind and biomass, as well as efforts to expand the use of biodiesel and ethanol, which can reduce America's dependence on foreign oil while increasing revenues to farmers.

Nuclear power finds ample support in the Republican camp. It "provides America with affordable, emissions-free energy. We believe nuclear power can help reduce our dependence on foreign energy and play an invaluable role in addressing global climate change."

President Bush "supports construction of new nuclear power plants through the Nuclear Power 2010 initiative, and continues to move forward on creating an environmentally sound nuclear waste repository," the platform says, referring to the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada for which the Department of Energy is preparing a license application.

The platform plank on communities gives environmental conservation a nod, saying the framework in which communities can flourish "requires access to affordable and accessible health care, protection of America's environment and natural resources, the maintenance of public safety and prosecution of people who violate the peace of communities, guaranteed rights and equal opportunities for all members of society, and compassionate help for our fellow citizens who are trapped in unhealthy or harmful situations."

Except for the balloons, and the confetti and streamers, that has been the extent of the Republicans' consideration of the environment at the convention. The 100,000 balloons, plus the 300 pounds of "flame retardant and environmentally sensitive" confetti and streamers, are biodegradable.

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