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White House Watch

Bush's answer to global warming: soybeans
Block News Alliance


June 09, 2005

Washington - President Bush has seen the future and suggests it's a U.S. president thrilled with the soybean report.

This is what he said, when asked a few days ago by a British reporter if he believes that climate change is manmade and whether he, as head of the world's richest nation, has a responsibility to do all he can to reverse it.

"I'll tell you an interesting opportunity, for not only here but for the rest of the world, is biodiesel. That is a fuel developed through, from soybeans. I kind of, in jest, like to travel our country saying, 'Wouldn't it be wonderful if someday the president sat down and looked at the crop report, and said, man, we've got a lot of soybeans.' It means we're less dependent on foreign sources of energy. We're spending money to figure out how best to refine soy into diesel.

"See, there's a lot of things we're doing in America, and I believe that not only can we solve our greenhouse gas, I believe we will."

If you're not reassured that biodiesel is the answer to global warming and not curbs on tailpipe and smokestack emissions that heat Earth's atmosphere, take heart that Bush's new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Steve Johnson - a scientist and a 24-year veteran of the agency - says he has the "utmost confidence" in his boss.

Johnson, the first scientist to head the EPA, has ordered agency scientists not to speak publicly unless the public-affairs office says they may and clears what they say. However, he firmly denies that government scientists who have questioned the administration's wait-and-see position on carbon-dioxide gases as the major culprit in global warming have been "squelched."

This is important because Philip Cooney, chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, has been editing government climate reports in ways that play down cause and effect between greenhouse-gas emissions and global warming. This has angered a number of government scientists who claim science has been politicized in the Bush administration. Before going to the White House, Cooney, who is not a scientist, helped orchestrate the American Petroleum Institute's battles with the government on curbing emissions.

When requests were made to talk with Cooney, the White House said he is not "cleared" to talk about this. In other words, he has been muzzled, like the EPA's scientists.

With the rest of the world still angry that the United States failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, adopted by 140 nations to attempt to limit carbon-dioxide emissions and reverse global warming, it seems the Bush administration has been cooking the books.

This, of course, is not a good thing when the rest of the world still is angry that administration assurances that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction proved false.

Bush had a number of reasons for his opposition to the Kyoto treaty, some good, some not so good. And he, apparently, sincerely believed Saddam Hussein had hidden huge stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons.

But with ideological control freaks in the White House, the reputation of the United States as an honest broker committed to the truth at all costs is being tarnished.

This country was in the forefront of figuring out that humans are slowly destroying the environment. Now the United States is in the awkward position of dragging its feet on the issue. At the Group of Eight meeting in Scotland next month, it will be the other richest nations in the world wagging a collective finger at us for retrenching on environmental cleanup. The rest of the world thinks it's because the president is an oilman.

Even Christine Whitman, Bush's first EPA administrator, left the administration disillusioned about his commitment to the environment.

The new man, Johnson, clearly can't believe that after two and a half decades as a bureaucrat, he's been sent to the top of the heap. He keeps repeating he's "incredibly honored" that Bush tapped him for the job.

He says Bush gave him three directions - accelerate environmental protection while maintaining the U.S. economic competitive edge and being the same person he's been.

As a biologist and pathologist, Johnson says he likes lists. Just sworn in May 23, he's been giving reporters lists of his environmental priorities. Oddly, soybeans aren't on them.


Ann McFeatters is Washington bureau chief of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Toledo Blade. E-mail amcfeatters(at)

Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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