Environmental and energy issues were barely mentioned in the 2004 political campaign, although polls show that Americans have concerns about air and water quality, energy dependence, climate change, and public stewardship of lands and forests.
Now, some of the country's leading policy analysts and academicians speak out in a new book about the urgent energy and environmental issues facing the second Bush administration and Congress.
Resources for the Future is the independent research group behind the book, New Approaches on Energy and the Environment: Policy Advice for the President. Each of the 25 essays in the book was written before the 2004 election.
Co-editor and Resources for the Future President Paul Portney says the purpose was to present policy options rather than ideology. He says the essays might be thought of as short "memos" to the President of the United States.
"Literally ranging from 'A' to 'Z' with 'A' being antibiotic resistance and air pollution and 'Z' being zoning the oceans. So it is a fairly comprehensive list of recommendations across a wide variety of area," he notes.
Other issues tackled in the book include expanding the role for renewable energy, imposing a carbon tax on fuels to reduce the budget deficit, and a pay-as-you-go car insurance that would encourage motorists to drive less.
Many of the essays discuss global warming emissions and America's reliance on foreign oil. Among the proposals for reducing fossil fuel emissions is a gasoline tax and legislation to raise the fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks.
Greg Easterbrook is visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington. He says Congress and the White House are more likely to adopt carbon emissions trading if it's modeled after a successful program like the one that's now helping to control acid rain in the northeastern United States.
"I can imagine some sort of carbon trading regime coming into existence even under the Bush administration, maybe as a pilot program at $5 a ton as the low level," he noted. "But I can see the Bush people willing to do that. And I can see that going through Congress if it is a gradual program, initially modest that is designed to have safeguards, I can see it happening. By far the most important proposal in this book is the carbon trading proposal."
Democrat Jim Cooper is a one-time Board member for Resources for the Future and now a member of Congress from Tennessee. He says the book proposes common sense ideas that are likely to become law.
"I think that you are seeing a progressive business community on a number of these issues and I think that will help persuade large groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers and others to not be locked in to their traditional positions," he said. "I also think that you are seeing a president who doesn't need to be re-elected [again]. He doesn't need to please the [political] base anymore, and can indeed craft a legacy that his children and grandchildren will be proud of. And I am hopeful that what [president] Abraham Lincoln called the better angels of our natures will be predominant."
Iain Murray is a senior analyst on international policy with the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He expects Congress, having picked up more republican members in the election, to shift further to the right.
"And, I think that the prospect [exists] for finally getting some sort of comprehensive energy legislation through Congress," he added. "And it also means things like the McCain Leiberman Climate Stewardship Act, which attempts to increase taxes to combat global warming are less likely to get through."
Positions on the environment or energy did not appear to sway most voters in the 2004 election. However, as the essays in this new political anthology point out these issues will have an enormous impact on the quality of life and public health in the United States. Resources for the Future hopes the essays will help decision-makers and the general public to find solutions to some of these problems.