SAN FRANCISCO, July 31 — Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean on Thursday unveiled an environmental plan that would increase use of renewable resources, push automakers to improve fuel efficiency and strengthen the Environmental Protection Agency.
Two days after presenting his economic plan in Iowa, the former Vermont governor delivered the first major environmental address of his campaign and criticized President Bush’s record during a speech in San Francisco.
“We can take America back from those who care more about returning a favor to a friend than about creating a sensible environmental and energy policy,” Dean told an audience of about 400 supporters and environmental activists. He denounced Bush Administration programs such as the “Clear Skies” and “Healthy Forests” initiatives as “Orwellian doublespeak.”
Under Dean’s plan, 20 percent of the nation’s electricity supply would have to come from renewable sources such as wind and solar power by 2020. He would create incentives to develop hydrogen-powered vehicles, design more energy-efficient SUV’s and increase use of ethanol, a renewable fuel produced from agricultural waste.
“Conservation, principally through efficiency improvements, has to be a centerpiece of our national energy policy,” Dean said.
But in a proposal certain to upset automakers in key electoral states such as Michigan, Dean suggested requiring automakers to establish a fuel efficiency standard of 40 miles per gallon by 2015. The current requirement is 27.5 miles per gallon for cars and 20.7 for trucks.
During his nearly 12 years as governor, Dean had a sometimes strained relationship with environmental leaders because he frequently sided with the business community in development disputes.
In his speech, Dean said he would elevate the Environmental Protection Agency to Cabinet level, tighten controls on air pollution and provide more funding for enforcement of environmental laws.
“We’ll ensure that the agencies created to oversee our precious environmental and natural resources aren’t co-opted by the very forces they’re supposed to be guarding against,” Dean said.
Dean called for “livable communities” by strengthening downtowns while protecting wild and open spaces. As governor of Vermont, he signed a law that targeted incentives and a variety of grants to developments that were established in the state’s downtowns and village centers.
Dean said would insist that the United States participate in international environmental agreements, such as the Kyoto global warming treaty. He said environmental standards should become a key element of the country’s foreign trade agreements.
“The United States must lead the world in addressing the serious long-term challenges facing the planet,” Dean said.
Environmental activists who listened to the speech were encouraged by Dean’s views on key environmental issues.
“We’re thrilled the governor came out strong on the environment,” said Larry Fahn, president of the Sierra Club, which is still deciding which candidate to endorse. “We’re thrilled that all the candidates are starting to realize that the Bush Administration is vulnerable on this issue.”
“He gets the environmental issues most important to me as a mother and a Californian,” said Betsy Rosenberg, co-founder of San Francisco-based Don’t Be Fueled, which advocates for cleaner and safer vehicles. “I think Howard Dean really walks the eco-talk. I think he really gets it.”
The full text of Governor Dean’s speech can be found here.