Bush's opposition last year helped doom Senate legislation requiring utilities nationwide to produce 10% of their power from renewable sources by 2020. His administration has missed deadlines to release 18 appliance efficiency regulations that would cut electricity use. Most important, he has unwaveringly opposed the most effective short-term step the U.S. could take to reduce oil consumption: raising fuel economy standards for cars and trucks.
Relying on the market alone to wean America from oil is like trying to deliver an international letter by dropping it in the ocean, hoping the tide will carry it to the correct address. Washington needs to establish a clear direction, using all the tools at its disposal, from research subsidies to federal procurement and regulatory mandates.
When government demands greater energy efficiency, American engineers have repeatedly demonstrated they can reach the bar. Because of a regulation that became final last month after long opposition from the Bush administration, your next air conditioner will use 30% less electricity. Over time, tougher standards could squeeze mileage gains from cars at least that great. If we require American companies and consumers to do better, they will.
Ronald Brownstein's column appears every Sunday. See current and past Brownstein columns on The Times' website at latimes.com/brownstein.