Lynn Scarlett was deputy secretary of the Interior under President George W. Bush. She is also a former president of the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this magazine. Upon her return to civilian life, where she is now consulting for the Environmental Defense Fund, she spoke with reason about her three biggest frustrations with life on the inside. She says: “Eight years of environmental policy under the Bush administration strengthened cooperative conservation, ocean conservation, and private stewardship. But there were big failings too. The worst depends on where you sit, but…”
1.) We need a diversified, cleaner energy portfolio, but mandating and subsidizing ethanol production skews agricultural markets and has potentially significant environmental impacts. Pick-the-winner technology prescriptions generally make poor policy.
2.) Early on, there was an opportunity to enhance incentives under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Strangled by the usual forces pressing for regulatory relief, these incentive efforts were scuttled. In the end, a few changes were rushed through that focused on assuring that ESA processes did not become a backdoor means of regulating climate change. The real chance to benefit species and communities, working with the environmental community, was lost in a fog of politics.
3.) The science of climate change is complex, but the administration acknowledged the problem and then drifted along emphasizing partnerships to reduce greenhouse gases. Climate legislation will arrive. The Bush administration lost a huge opportunity to shape that legislation.