It was just like old times Monday -- George Bush and Al Gore delivering dueling messages. Gore, eyeing another White House bid, trashed the president's environmental policies in an Earth Day speech in Nashville, Tenn.
The former vice president echoed his New York Times' guest column on Sunday, that the Bush administration's environmental and energy policies are being run by the oil and chemical industries.
He went on to charge that the Clear Skies initiative, touted by President Bush in New York state's acid rain-plagued Adirondack Mountains, "actually increases air pollution levels." His remarks show he still panders to environmental extremists.
Bush is not scrapping environmental standards, as Gore charges. In fact, he's asking Congress to mandate a 70 percent reduction of three of the worst pollutants by 2018. The Adirondack Council and other environmental groups embrace Bush's plan, which is modeled after the Environmental Protection Agency's program to reduce acid rain.
The primary difference between Gore's approach and Bush's is that the former would use Big Government to club industry into line and the latter would employ a market-based formula.
Bush would let companies work out the lower limits through a system of earning and trading credits. Gore's coercive approach would result in years'-long lawsuits.
The Clinton-Gore administration had eight years to clean up the environment, and might have gotten more done if they hadn't consistently overreached.
The Bush team has been in office less than two years. Even if Clear Skies isn't the best game in town, it is for now the only game. Congress should give it a shot.
If it's as bad as Gore says, then Democrats will have an issue to run on in 2004. But if Democrats shoot down the Bush plan, it could only be because they're afraid it would work -- and they'd lose the environment as a campaign issue.
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