Rich Tucker

New Orleans is under water. Thousands of people are feared dead. The city may be unlivable for months. This may be the greatest disaster in American history.

Can this really be President Bush’s fault?

Even before we knew just how bad things were, the left began attacking. On Aug. 29, as Hurricane Katrina was still moving across the south, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. dropped a line to HuffingtonPost.com. He attacked the Bush administration for deciding not to treat CO2 as a pollutant, a decision Kennedy says was influenced by Mississippi’s current governor, Haley Barbour.

“Now we are learning what it’s like to reap the whirlwind of fossil fuel dependence, which Barbour and his cronies have encouraged,” Kennedy wrote. “Our destructive addiction has given us a catastrophic war in the Middle East and -- now -- Katrina is giving our nation a glimpse of the climate chaos we are bequeathing to our children.”

Okay, let’s call Kennedy’s bluff. Let’s imagine that, in 2001, President Bush had outlawed all automobiles, buses and trucks. And that he had shut down all coal-, oil- and natural gas-fired power plants. Doing so would have marginally trimmed carbon dioxide emissions over the last four-and-a-half years.

Does anyone think this would have done anything to slow down global warming (if indeed global warming is occurring)? Of course not. Even if we had done all that, we wouldn’t have seen any results for a decade at least.

Furthermore, is there anyone who thinks eliminating those emissions would have prevented Katrina, or made the storm less severe? That idea is simply outrageous. There were hurricanes before man started burning carbon, and there will be hurricanes after man has perished from the earth.

Actually, though, had we taken the hypothetical steps outlined above, the entire country would look like New Orleans does today: No power, no transportation, no fresh food, chaos.
Our automobiles and power plants make today’s suburban, air-conditioned, well-fed lifestyle possible. It’s because they’re absent from New Orleans that the city is in chaos.

What the federal government can and should do is make our lifestyle even easier to obtain.
For example, no new oil refineries have opened in the U.S. since 1976. According to Lon Anderson, director of government relations at AAA Mid-Atlantic, “with new environmental restrictions it would probably be impossible to get permits to build a new oil refinery in America.”


Rich Tucker

Rich Tucker is a communications professional and a columnist for Townhall.com.