Selections from Taken For A Ride: Detroit's Big Three and the Politics of Air Pollution by Jack Doyle pertaining to alternative fuels issues in 1990 and also to George Bush, Sr.

Chapter 11, Bad Air p. 214

The Greening Of George Bush

George Bush, as the Reagan administration's point man on the Regulatory Relief Task Force, had generally not endeared himself to the nation's environmentalists. But in his campaign, Bush went through a rather amazing metamorphosis on environmental matters. Bush's handlers and advisors deftly used his more moderate environmental leanings and his hunting and fishing outings to transform him into a presidential candidate who could garner suburban and sportsman "environmental" vortes. Bush had reportedly told some advisors early on that he believed the nation should do more about pollution and that he would differ from Reagan on the issue. By early 1988, Russell Train, William Ruckelshaus, New Jersey governor Thomas Kean, Nicholas Brady, campaign strategist Robert Teeter, and C. Boyden Gray were all helping craft Bush's environmental message. At a May 1988 campaign stop in Seattle before a business group, Bush broached the topic of clean air, noting that while progress had been made "nearly 80 metropolitan areas are flunking clean-air standards."

During his campaign, Bush would plant the seeds of a new approach to cleaning up air pollution that would later become part of a national program: using cleaner burning alcohol fuels in automobilies, also called alternative fuels. Bush ahd begun to venture out on alternative fuels as chairman of Ronald Reagan's Regulatory Reform Task Force. Boyden Gray, chief counsel to Bush, was also a vocal supporter of increased methanol use and headed up the federal agency working group writing the methanol fuel recommendations for the states. By the time he ran for president, Bushand his advosrs - principally Boyden Gray and a former Ford administration energy official, Bill Rosenberg - began to see the political and economic value of alternative fuels. Rosenberg, for one, would would later become Bush's nominee to EPA as assistant administrator for Air and Radiation, saw alternative fuels as a new market; a way for some businesses and possibly farmers to benefit. While campaigning in the Midwest, Bush made alternative fuels a part of his platform.

[transcriber's note: Bush's eventual support of methanol, and not ethanol, would not benefit farmers one iota.]

Then, in a campaign speech at Lake Erie on August 31, 1988, Bush asserted, "I am an environmentalist. Always have been, from my earliest days as a congressman, when I first chaired the House task force on earth resources and population. And I always will be, to my last days as a president of this great and beautiful country. That's not inconsistent with being a businessman. Nor is it with being a conservative. In fact, it is an essential part of the thinking that should guide either one." By this time, Bush was adding acid rain and ozone depletion to issues he would address as president.

"Talk about an election year conversion," Dukakis would say of Bush's new environmental promises. Still, the issue helped Bush win the election, especially after he went to Boston Harbor in September 1988 and made national TV news criticizing Dukakis' failure to clean up the harbor while governor. The Dukakis people were slow to respond. Frank Blake, a Bush environmnetal campaign advisor couldn't understand why "Dukakis gave us the issue." Leslie Dach, Dukakis' campaign spokesman and communications director, later explained, " We screwed up the environmental issue. Any campaign has limited space and time. We didn't think we could use the environmental issue to get new vots. So we decided to focus on the economy. It was probably a mistake that we did not first occupy the turf on the environment."

Once in the White House, Bush's team began to see a new Clean Air Act as a political tool to help win the next presidential election, in 1992 - especially in California, which would comprise 20 percent of the electoral votes needed to win.

p. 217

Chapter 12: Fuels On The Fire

It was June 1989 at the White House, and George Bush, newly elected president, was introducing the broad outlines of a proposed Clean Air bill for Congress. 'Twenty years from now,' he said, 'every American in every city in America will breathe clean air.'

After nearly a decade of congressional gridlock over the Clean Air Act, and eight years of Reagan administration regulatory attack, the fact that Bush was taking the initiative at all was a welcome sign. Environmentalists were cautiously optimistic. Bush's program sounded good, zeroing in on urban pollution. All but three of eighty-one cities then failing to meet the clean air standards would meet those standards by the year 2000, he promised. Only Los Angeles, Houston, and Denver would be given more leeway.

Key to Bush's plan on urban smog was the use of cleaner, nonpetroleum fuels-alcohol fuels and other so-called alternative fuels, which would soon come to embrace a range of options from methanol and ethanol to reformulated gasoline and compressed natural gas. Under the president's initial proposal, however the auto industry would be required to produce one million cars annually capable of running on methanol by 1997.

p. 223:

ARCO's "New Gas"

Not long after George Bush floated his first Clean Air Act proposal with the million-car mandate [1990-ish] , the old Atlantic-Richfield oil company, now called ARCO, made national news with a new kind of gasoline....[...]... that would reduce some kinds of emissions. ...

But in a stunning admission, ARCO officials acknowledged that the chemistry and refining involved in making cleaner gasoline was really quite simple and could have been done years sooner. ...with the Bush proposal in the wings, ARCO was now worried about the potential competition from alternative fuels, and potentially, tighter restrictions on gasoline.

[...]ARCO was also responding to an air quality management plan by California's South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), the air quality authority that governs the "gasoline gold mine" that is the Los Angeles Basin, a market dominated by ARCO. The AQMD had proposed a twenty-year plan, later approvaed, that would eliminate gasoline-powered cars in favor of vehicles using methanol, ethanol, compressed natural gas, and electricity. With such prospects in the offing, ARCO instructed its chemists in March 1989 to formulate a cleaner-burning gasoline. Within three months, the company's scientists had a formula that reduced smog precusors by 37 percent...

[...] said James M. Lents, executive director of the AQMD. 'We believe...that methanol and natural gas, electricity, and those kinds of fuels are the kinds that are needed. We're skeptical that gasoline can ever be as clean as some of these fuels, but we think they deserve the chance and our support.

ARCO's move - although it initialy divided the oil industry on strategy - would subsequently help to blunt the Bush administration's call for a strong move into alternative alchohol-based fuels and alternative-fuel vehicles. 'Until we began discussing an alternative fuels mandate at the White House level,' recounted EPA administrator William Reilly, 'I had never even heard the term reformulated gasoline. No oil company executive had ever given the EPA the slightest hint it could be done.'[...]


1990 Floor Vote


Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 helped the prospects for the [Bryan] bill. On September 14, 1990 it received a favorable 68-to-28 vote on a procedural question whether to consider the bill, which George Bush had threatened to veto. But the procedural vote signaled that Bryan had enough votes to both override a veto and cut off a filibuster -- the two most likely threats. Bryan's seeming advantage, however, would soon erode. At a hastily called press conference after the September 14 vote, Secretary of Transportation Samuel K. Skinner stated, "The goal set in the Bryan legislation is completely unrealistic, irresponsible, and more important, unattainable from a technology viewpoint." Yet in France, a Citroen AX-10 was capable of getting 76 MPG at highway speeds of 56 MPG and a Honda Civic then being sold in the US was capable of 55 MPG. The Bush administration -- which was more aggressive on auto emissions -- sided with the auto industry on fuel economy, and together, they stepped up the lobbying heat on a few targeted senators. By twisting arms in the Senate, Bush and the Big Three began to peel away senators from Bryan's side one by one.

...[discussion of individual Senators' votes changing]....Bryan and his cosponsors saw the writing on the wall and soon withdrew their bill, essentially killing the measure for the 101st Congress. Bryan was clearly not happy. "Every parent of a son or daughter in the Persian Gulf ought to ask his congressman, 'What's your plan to reduce our dependency on foreign oil?'" he said after pulling his bill. [emphasis mine] Bryan believed that addressing fuel economy in the nation's cars and trucks was the most direct way of getting at America's increasing dependence on foreign oil. He voted to return with his bill the following year.


Even as the Big Three fought furiously to kill the Bryan bill in 1990, they used Madison Avenue to sell their cars on the basis of, above all things, their "fuel efficiency." Most of the claims, even for luxury cars, were blatantly deceptive and misleading.[...].