Jeb Bush ignores climate but backs oil in major foreign policy speech

Potential 2016 presidential candidate calls for “energy revolution” that will boost North America fossil fuel production


By Ed King

Climate change doesn’t rank at all in potential US presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s priorities, he revealed in a speech in Chicago late on Wednesday.

Bush – who could be the third member of his family to claim the White House in just over two decades – said boosting US military power would underpin his foreign policy.

Crises in the Middle East and Ukraine featured heavily in his half-hour speech. US observers say his appearance is a sign he is wants to be the Republican’s 2016 candidate.

On energy, the one-time Florida governor, who admitted in 2009 climate change “may be real”, said he wanted the US to grow its oil and gas production.

In a dig at the White House’s “all of the above” energy plans, he said he would create a strategy to to “re-industrialise the country” with low cost energy.

But he made no mention of wind, solar and other forms of renewables, which are some of the fastest growing sources of energy in the US.

“As we grow our presence by growing our ability to produce oil and gas we also lessen the dependency that Europe has on Russia,” he said.

Bush proposed modernising oil production in Mexico and deepening energy links with Canada as two ways the US could ensure it did not have to rely on others “who use their oil for blackmail”.

Hilary Clinton, a favourite to win Democrat backing for a run on Washington, has already stated her support for the White House’s climate and energy strategy.

“The unprecedented action that President Obama has taken must be defended at all costs,” she told green groups last December.

But it remains unclear what line a Republican incumbent would take if they won office, and how this would affect global plans for a greenhouse gas reduction deal at the UN.

In 1997 US president Bill Clinton agreed to back a UN climate deal – the Kyoto Protocol – only for his successor George W Bush to withdraw his support in 2002.

Under Bush’s brother, the US adopted a hostile stance towards global efforts to cut carbon emissions, with officials linked to the oil industry promoted to senior positions.

Governments are now working on new pact to be agreed at the end of 2015, and come into effect by 2020. Scientists say the world has 30 years before dangerous levels of warming are locked into the Earth’s climate systems, which could lead to more floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

Veteran UN climate talks observers say the US-China climate accord at the end of 2014 boosted the chances of a 2015 agreement working, but this would be just the start of a longer process.

The Republican’s Tea Party wing is deeply hostile to these talks.

The two most senior Republican lawmakers in Congress, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, have vowed to block President Obama’s 2013 climate plan.

Obama is also in the midst of a deep row with the Republican-dominated Congress over a proposed oil pipeline that would run from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

Critics say it would encourage greater expansion of oil extraction from Alberta’s tar sands, an energy intensive and polluting method of extracting crude oil.

On February 11 the House of Representatives voted 270-152 in favour of the $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline, leaving the president to approve or veto the decision.

The project is still under analysis from the State Department – and Obama said he will block any moves to bypass that process.

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