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Bush Mired in the Past on the Environment

August 16, 1992

Allan Meltzer's column, "Applying Market Principles to the Cause of Saving the Environment" (July 19), makes some good points about how to improve global environmental quality within the context of good business sense.

I'm not prepared, however, to drape George Bush with the mantle of cool wisdom in the face of unthinking environmental frenzy at Rio, as Meltzer would have us do.

On the issue of global warming at least, I believe Bush's action was based on lack of real understanding or sympathy with the environmental aspects of the problem, combined with a narrow self-interest in preserving the profitability of the domestic oil industry.

The United States, being by far the most wasteful country in terms of fossil fuel consumption, could have met the goal of limiting energy consumption far easier than other industrialized nations which are already operating more efficiently and therefore would be far more challenged to implement further efficiencies.

There are solid business arguments for energy efficiency.

"Last year the United States ran up a merchandise trade deficit of $66 billion--$44 billion of it in oil," according to an article in the April 20 edition of Business Week.

Reasonable measures to reduce oil consumption via conservation incentives would improve our global fiscal performance and free funds for much needed improvements in education, research, health care, etc.

Other countries, notably Germany and Japan, are pushing ahead with the necessary technologies to further improve energy efficiency.

This will leave them economically stronger in the long run because fewer of their resources are required to pay their energy bills and put us in the potentially awkward position of having to buy their products because we failed to develop our own technology.

We do not live in a static world. One of the big changes in the coming decades is the industrial development of the Third World.

If they proceed as carelessly as we have, the world will have environmental problems beyond anything anticipated. To persuade them to proceed prudently, we must first show the willingness and resolve to clean up our own act.

It is in our own economic interest to have the technology and products available to help them achieve a better standard of living that is also environmentally responsible.

The tragedy is that the Bush Administration is mired in the past and fails to see that energy conservation is one of the key technological challenges of the near future. Rather than costing jobs, it would stimulate research and generate new products for which there would be a world market.

PAUL W. ROSENBERGER, Manhattan Beach

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