It “fell far short” (Washington Post editorial) and offers only “marginal” gains (New York Times editorial) and is “nonsense” (Charles Krauthammer) and “isn’t much” (Thomas Friedman). All these are descriptions of the energy policy proposal in George W. Bush’s State of the Union address last week. They don’t match the plan itself.
Last week Bush proposed something environmentalists, energy analysts, greenhouse-effect researchers, and national-security experts have spent 20 years pleading for: a major strengthening of federal mileage standards for cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks. The number-one failing of U.S. energy policy is that vehicle mile-per-gallon standards have not been made stricter in two decades.
Nothing the United States can do in energy policy is more important than an mpg increase. Presidents George Herbert Walker Bush, Bill Clinton, and, until last week, George W. Bush had all refused to face the issue of America’s low-mpg vehicles, which are the root of U.S. dependency on Persian Gulf oil and a prime factor in rising U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions. But now Bush favors a radical strengthening of federal mileage rules, and last week to boot became the first Republican president since Gerald Ford to embrace the basic concept of federal mileage regulation (called the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard).