The Common Good
July-August 2001

The Texas Two-Step

by Rose Marie Berger | July-August 2001

George W. and Laura Bush's new Crawford, Texas home boasts a stunning array of eco-friendly features...

The Bush ranch house in Crawford, Texas, balances beauty with state-of-the-art energy efficiency. Designed by Austin environmental architect David Heymann, and built by members of a religious community from nearby Elm Mott, George W. and Laura Bush's dream home is built of a BTU-efficient, honey-toned native limestone quarried from the nearby Edwards Limestone Formation.

The passive-solar house is positioned to absorb winter sunlight, warming the interior walkways and walls. Underground water, which remains a constant 55 degrees year-round, is piped through a heat exchange system that keeps the interior warm in winter and cool in summer. A graywater reclamation system treats and reuses waste water. Rain gutters feed a cistern hooked to a sprinkler system for watering the fruit orchard and grass. Clearly, Bush goes home from the White House to a green house.

Yet the Bush administration's 63-member energy advisory team has 62 members with ties to oil, nuclear, or coal interests. His national energy policy places nuclear power, increased oil and natural gas drilling, and "clean coal" as its cornerstone. The Bush budget takes a definitive step away from developing renewable energy resources. According to the Pew Research Center, 54 percent of Americans distrust Bush's "muscular energy" environmental agenda. In May, 22 religious leaders were arrested at the Department of Energy protesting Bush's plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Bush ranch is the kind of place we'd all like to live. Too bad his environmental policies are moving the rest of the country in exactly the opposite direction.

CLEAN WATER. Bush has put on hold Clinton regulations that would have lowered arsenic in drinking water from 50 parts per billion to 10 ppb. The Bush budget eliminates the National Water Quality Assessment program and drastically cuts funds for hydrology research.

CARBON DIOXIDE. On the campaign trail, Bush vowed to establish mandatory reductions on carbon and sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury emissions from power plants, thus reducing smog, acid rain, and global warming. After taking office, he reneged on this promise.

AIR QUALITY. The Bush budget cuts $20 million from the National Ambient Air Quality Standards project, $3 million from programs to reduce air toxics and acid rain, and $3.3 million from clean air research projects.

GLOBAL WARMING. The Bush administration has rejected the Kyoto environmental agreements, which would have 38 industrialized countries cut greenhouse gas emissions. (The United States produces 25 percent of the destructive gases.)

SOLAR POWER. Bush's budget cut the Department of Energy's solar research funding by 54 percent.

ENERGY POLICY. The Bush administration's energy policy rejects conservation as a national value and guts renewable energy programs, and instead promotes more production of nuclear power, oil, natural gas, and coal.

FUEL EFFICIENCY. Bush has effectively frozen the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards by sending them to a National Academy of Sciences panel for review—nine of the 13 panel members have publicly criticized the standards.

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