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United States

The green war of president Bush

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From around the world, condemnation of President George Bush's apparent "green war" has flooded into Washington ever since his administration said it is abandoning the Kyoto Treaty. The White House has been inundated with more than 100,000 angry emails. Friends of the Earth (FOE), which spearheaded the email campaign, has labelled Bush the Toxic Texan and is distributing a top-ten list of what it says are Bush's worst environmental actions.

And on the eve of Earth Day, on April 22, a coalition of America's leading environmental groups, including FOE, the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, League of Conservation Voters, Defenders of Wildlife, Union of Concerned Scientists, National Environmental Trust, Natural Resources Defence Council and the US Public Interest Research Group, announced a major national advertising blitz to counter Bush's anti-environment policies.

International politicians too have blasted the Bush administration's stance, first revealed in late March by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Christie Whitman. Japan has said it will redouble its efforts to persuade the Bush administration to change its mind. Australia warned the treaty was dead without US support.

Britain has described Bush's decision as dire. "There is no serious possibility of negotiating an acceptable alternative," said British environment minister Michael Meacher. The Swedish government, which currently holds the European Union presidency, described the move as appalling and provocative while its environment minister Kjell Larrson promised the EU will ratify Kyoto with or without US participation.

Fractured and insular

"The Kyoto protocol is alive and well -- no individual country has the right to declare a multilateral agreement as dead," said the EU in its first collective reaction to Bush's stance. The US produces 25% of the world's greenhouse gases. Wind power is expected to be a major beneficiary of the treaty, under which industrialised nations will reduce greenhouse gases by an average of 5.2% below 1990 levels by 2012.

Even Bush's response to the avalanche of criticism was what Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer described as typically fractured and breathtakingly insular. "We will not do anything that harms our economy," said Bush. "Because first things first are the people who live in America." But in the days leading up to Earth Day, there were enough signs that the White House was backtracking slightly on its open hostility to the environment that a Washington Post columnist humorously dubbed Bush's credentials as Green Lite.

Under fire for Bush's environmental views, Whitman further infuriated environmentalists and clean energy advocates with a disturbing overview of priorities, with bird kills by wind plant juxtaposed with the dangers of nuclear and the environmental damage of oil.

"Nobody wants to drill for oil because of what it might do to the environment," she said. "No one wants oil transmission pipelines because they blow up. No one wants to talk about nuclear energy. And even windmills kill birds because they're in the flyway."

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