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Environment


A Strange Sort of Secretary

 

Reagan Years - Environment

 

"We will mine more, drill more, cut more timber."
--Secretary of the Interior James Watt

"A left-wing cult dedicated to bringing down the type of government I believe in."
--James Watt, describing environmentalists

"I never use the words Democrats and Republicans. It's liberals and Americans."
--James Watt, November 1981, cited in The New York Times, October 10, 1983

"My responsibility is to follow the Scriptures which call upon us to occupy the land until Jesus returns."
--James Watt, in The Washington Post, May 24, 1981

"A tree's a tree.  How many more do you need to look at?"
--Ronald Reagan (Governor of California), cited in the Sacramento Bee, opposing expansion of Redwood National Park, March 3, 1966

 

The Reagan Years

 

For someone who didn't seem too fond of trees, it should have come as no surprise that Ronald Reagan would appoint James Watt to be his Secretary of the Interior.  James Watt was, according to the Audubon Society, "arguably the most anti-environment secretary ever."  Watt was not just anti-environment, he was a simpleton.  Testifying before Congress, Watt was asked if he agreed that natural resources should be preserved for future generations.  His response:

"I do not know how many future generations we can count of before the Lord returns."
--James Watt, testifying before the House Interior Committee, February 5, 1981

However, it was not Watts' stance on environmental issues that compelled the Reagan administration to eventually force his resignation.  It was the fallout from the following comment he made to a group of lobbyists regarding the makeup of his coal-leasing commission:

"We have every kind of mix you can have.  I have a black, I have a woman, two Jews and a cripple."
--James Watt, speaking before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, September 21, 1983

Eighteen days later, Watt resigned.


Sabotaging Solar Energy

"The budget for the [Solar Energy Research] Institute--which President Jimmy Carter had created to spearhead solar innovation--was slashed [under Reagan] from $124 million in 1980 to $59 million in 1982.  Scientists who had left tenured university jobs to work [on the project] were given two weeks notice and no severance pay.  The squelching of the institute--later partly re-funded and renamed the National Renewable Energy Laboratory--marked the start of Reagan's campaign against solar power.  By the end of 1985, when Congress and the administration allowed tax credits for solar homes to lapse, the dream of a solar era had faded.  The solar water heater President Carter had installed on the White House roof in 1979 was dismantled and junked.  Solar water heating went from a billion-dollar industry to peanuts overnight; thousands of sun-minded businesses went bankrupt."
--Arthur Allen, Prodigal Sun, as reported in Mother Jones, March/April 2000

"After the 1973 war and the first Arab oil shock, look at what America did and what Denmark did.  What we did was say, "Wow!  We've got to really take on this issue."  So beginning with President Ford and President Carter we said we were going to double the fuel efficiency of American cars from about 13 mpg then to I think it was 27.5.  We were going to do it over ten years and we did it.  We were so successful doing that we helped break OPEC in the late '70s and early '80s and crater the price of oil.  That worked out so well that Ronald Reagan, when he came along, said, "That's enough of that!"  He ripped off the solar panels that Jimmy Carter had put on the White House roof -- they were recently auctioned online....  Some of those solar companies that we spawned in the '70's and '80's -- they went bust also when we removed our subsidies and taxes.  They were bought by Japan.  I can't tell you how grateful the innovators and corporate leaders of Japan and Denmark are today for all the money America invested in research in wind and solar, spawning companies here which went bust in the '80s when we removed the subsidies from them....  One of the leading wind innovators in America, in fact, was given a medal of honor by the government of Denmark.  All his technology ended up there."
--Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist, interviewed by Terry Gross of WHYY's "Fresh Air," about the revelations in his book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, 8 September 2008

New Legoland Ideas

The Ronald Reagan Years - The Real Reagan Record
by Mark Tracy

 

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