President Bush's call today to stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 shouldn't be seen as any kind of White House policy shift.
If you think about it, he's really saying that it's fine for emissions to grow until then. Bush's speech today was a fairly vague and empty statement of intent, lacking in any plan to actually set specific emissions targets or reduce the United States' output. And when it does come time to halt growth, what Bush hails are the tired fallbacks: fuel-economy standards (not very helpful) and those frequently hyped and rarely identified "new technologies" that will surely do something. And since something's on the way, there's surely no need to reduce or cap today. Or so goes the thinking.
Bush devoted the majority of his remarks to what he still finds wrong with the emissions debate, making it clear how truly opposed he is to any type of regulation. He threw in a jab at the Supreme Court and its "unelected judges" for good measure:
The Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act were never meant to regulate global climate change. For example, under a Supreme Court decision last year, the Clean Air Act could be applied to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.
If these laws are stretched beyond their original intent, they could override the programs Congress just adopted, and force the government to regulate more than just power plant emissions. They could also force the government to regulate smaller users and producers of energy from schools and stores to hospitals and apartment buildings. [...]
Decisions with such far-reaching impact should not be left to unelected regulators and judges. (my emphasis)
In short, the climate speech doesn't really alter the political landscape on the issue. Not a surprise, really, though I'd expected something a little more ground-shifting this morning when I read the WSJ's advance on the speech and noticed the hilariously sad Bush hedcut included therein. That Bush looks like he's had to make concessions. Apparently, though, 3-D George didn't agree.
(On a side note about hilarious hedcuts, who at the WSJ hates Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai? Because this is not a flattering rendering.)