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Harper should follow Bush's lead on environment: Dion 

[PoliticsWatch updated 4:00 p.m., January 24, 2007]

Liberal Leader Stephane Dion and U.S. President George W. Bush.

OTTAWA  — Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said Wednesday Prime Minister Stephen Harper should take note of U.S. President George W. Bush's focus on the environment in this week's State of the Union Address.  

Bush asked Congress in his speech Tuesday evening to set a goal to reduce gasoline usage in the U.S. 20 per cent over the next 10 years. 

"To reach this goal, we must increase the supply of alternative fuels, by setting a mandatory fuels standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017 -- and that is nearly five times the current target," Bush said to the applause of Republicans and Democrats. 

"At the same time, we need to reform and modernize fuel economy standards for cars the way we did for light trucks -- and conserve up to 8.5 billion more gallons of gasoline by 2017." 

Asked about Bush's plan following the Liberal caucus retreat in Quebec City, Dion said, "It's the kind of plan we need every where."

"Even a government like his that were denying the problem some months ago pretending the science is wrong ... now they're changing their minds," he added. 

Dion said he believes the White House was now listening to polls on the environment and suggested that if Bush "gets it," there's a chance Canada's prime minister may too. 
The prime minister has taken a number of steps over the last few weeks to bolster his government's efforts on the environment, including shuffling his cabinet and announcing $2 billion in new funding for programs designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Despite the PM's efforts, he still is being attacked by the opposition parties who are now questioning his sincerity. 

On Tuesday, Dion, himself, accused the PM of lacking "conviction" on a number of issues, especially the environment. 

Reuters reported Wednesday that the Liberal strategists believe that Harper's image is permanently damaged on the environment and new funding announcements are not enough to reverse the problem. 

"The only way he could make a breakthrough is if he did something so radical that it caused him to be burned in effigy in Calgary," one Liberal told Reuters.  

While Dion is welcoming Bush's efforts, the president's rationale is not specifically related to climate change or the Kyoto Accord, which the U.S. is not participating in.  

The president's speech did not one mention Kyoto and climate change was only mentioned once. Bush described it as a "serious challenge."

Bush is advocating a switch to greater energy efficiency more for economic stability than sustainable development. 

The president said the U.S.'s dependence on foreign oil "leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists -- who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments, and raise the price of oil, and do great harm to our economy." 

Bush spoke about hybrid cars, wind and solar power and clean coal in his speech. 

But he also advocated using "safe" nuclear power and increasing U.S. energy production. And it's still not clear whether or not the increased energy production would involve drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

A day after his State of the Union Address the president now finds himself receiving similar media coverage that Harper has received in the last few weeks after the government's flurry of announcements. 

Both men, who are from the oil producing centres of both countries, are the subject of cynical and even snickering news stories about their commitments to going green. 

Time magazine described Bush's green portion of his speech "decidedly out-of-character" 

"It was enough to make you wonder if the war President steeped in Texas oil has suddenly become a bit of an eco President. Don't count on it. But don't count it out either," Time concluded. 

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