Jim Marston: Perry keeping us stuck in the dark ages

July 19th, 2007

Governors of both parties fight greenhouse gases, but not here

Here’s a little quiz: Which governors made these comments? (Answers follow.)

1. “Climate change is the major environmental challenge of our era, and we need the help of everyone – not just government – to successfully address it.”

2. “The nation has been asleep at the switch, but here in [our state] we are kick-starting the future by increasing our nation-leading per capita renewable fuel use, boosting cost-saving measures and tackling greenhouse gas emissions.”

3. “Climate change is a real issue and one that we all need to get smart about it. …We are leading the charge. We are not waiting for Washington any longer.”

4. “I believe global climate change is one of the most important issues that we will face this century. … [Our state] is more vulnerable to rising ocean levels and violent weather patterns than any other state. … There’s no reason why [our state] cannot be the national leader in the production of alternative energy.”

5. “We simply must do everything in our power to slow down global warming before it’s too late.”

These statements were all made by Republican governors:

1. M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut, one of the seven Northeastern states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

2. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, as he signed a law requiring that utilities generate a quarter of their power from renewable sources by 2025.

3. Jon Huntsman of Utah, the next chair of the Western Governors Association.
4. Charlie Crist of Florida, announcing a Florida Summit on Global Climate Change to be held this month.

5. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, the state leading the charge on reducing global warming emissions.

The fact is that Republican governors are doing as much to address the climate crisis as Democratic governors. It’s not a partisan issue. As Wyoming’s Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal says, “If we’re going to solve this, it’s going to be all hands on deck.”

Yet here in the nation’s leading greenhouse-gas-producing state, Gov. Rick Perry recently vetoed a Republican-authored bill calling for an in-depth assessment of our long-term energy needs and opportunities.

And he vetoed a noncontroversial bill that would have prohibited Texas school bus drivers from idling their diesel engines while waiting for classes to let out. (Not only does diesel exhaust build up in the area around idling buses, but harmful soot particles collect inside the bus cabins when the engines are running.)

The anti-idling bill would have reduced unhealthy fumes and greenhouse gas emissions and trimmed fuel costs. It had the support of school boards and administrators and the state PTA, and no one – no one – testified against it as it easily made its way through the Legislature, only to die at the governor’s hand.

As director of Environmental Defense’s State Climate Initiatives program, I spend a lot of time traveling to other states to work with legislators and other officials to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

I’m always glad to return to Texas, but it’s frustrating, too, to come home to a governor whose views on global warming are stuck in the last century: “I am not going to put the state of Texas in a competitive economic disadvantage on some science that may or may not be correct,” Mr. Perry said this year.

He might have said, more accurately: “I am going to put Texas in a competitive economic disadvantage by giving other states a head start on developing cost-saving efficiencies and alternative-energy technologies they can market to the rest of the world.”

Meanwhile, Texas’ growing greenhouse gas emissions nullify the good reduction efforts of other states.

We can do better. And we should.

Jim Marston is regional director of Environmental Defense, and serves as board president for the Texas League of Conservation Voters.