The President: Shades of Green; George W. Bush Thinks of Himself as a Conservationist, but Activists Call His Policies Destructive to the Environment

Article excerpt

Byline: Richard Wolffe (With Karen Breslau)

Before moving into the White House, George W. Bush built the kind of vacation home that Al Gore might have designed. His Texas ranch captures rain and wastewater for landscaping. Solar panels line the roof and an underground geothermal system provides heating and air conditioning. There's even a protected forest that is home to the rare golden-cheeked warbler.

Unlike his caricature, Bush is not monochromatic when it comes to the environment. During the final weeks of the 2000 campaign. he lampooned Gore's plans to cut taxes for those living a green lifestyle. "How many of you own a hybrid electric-gasoline-engine vehicle?" he would ask at rallies. "How many of you have a rooftop photovoltaic system?"

But following his green-tinted State of the Union address in January, Bush now travels the country promoting both hybrid vehicles and solar power. Just last month he created a huge national monument around the remote northwestern islands of Hawaii.

Has Bush turned green in his six years in office? Both environmentalists and the White House say no--but for different reasons. To activists, Bush's record is unremittingly bad. They accuse him of relaxing clean-air standards on power plants and refineries, and of blocking Kyoto-style measures to halt global warming. They even question the sincerity of his plan to protect the Hawaiian Islands, given the Navy's nearby use of powerful sonar that can harm whales. "Whatever motivated him to build a green ranch before he was president hasn't been translated at all into policy," says Frances Beinecke of the Natural Resources Defense Council. …