What's Behind Bush's Clean-Technology Fund

The president's proposal is hailed as a "landmark" but faulted for being short on funding.

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The biggest new energy and climate proposal in President Bush's State of the Union address was a "new international clean-technology fund, which will help developing nations like India and China make greater use of clean energy sources." Right now, dirty and cheap coal is powering the rapid growth of these economies and adding disastrously to the greenhouse gas problem.

Since Bush, while not naming China and India by name, also reiterated his oft-made point that the United States won't agree to a global climate deal that doesn't include those fast-growing economies, the clean-tech fund is an acknowledgment that maybe we should lend a hand if we want them to get on board, seeing that we expanded our own economy with the same cheap, dirty coal and lots and lots of oil.

Bush didn't talk numbers in the speech, but the White House sent out a summary of his plans that specified the president is committed to spending $2 billion over the next three years on this idea. But it will cost developing countries an additional $30 billion to switch to cleaner technology through 2030, according to Bush's own Treasury Under Secretary David McCormick, who first floated the fund idea earlier this month.

Philip Clapp, deputy managing director of the Pew Environment Group, who usually doesn't find much to praise in Bush's climate policy, said the proposal "is a major landmark in addressing global warming." But he also put the money in perspective, noting that China alone is investing over $100 billion a year through its state-owned enterprises in new energy projects—most of them oil and coal-fired electricity. The president, Clapp said, was committing "a very small amount of money given the scale of the problem."

My take: No fund of this type will ever be big enough. The key, as Google has said, will be getting renewable energy to be cheaper than coal.

TAGS:
energy
energy policy and climate change
Bush, George W.
developing countries

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