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Ex-president saved us money, energy

Jan. 24, 2001

What was it that I learned from my kindergarten teacher about visiting someplace new? Oh, yeah: I must always leave a place cleaner than I found it. On that note, I am proud that President Clinton took this idea and tried to leave these United States cleaner than he found them.

During his presidency, Clinton passed laws and supported legislation related to dozens of major environmental initiatives. He also set aside millions of acres as monuments, parks or other wildlife areas and used the tough existing environmental laws to fine polluters $228 million in 1999, an article from the Environment New Service reported. In years to come, the changes that he made relating to the environment will be remembered as positive, important and righteous decisions.

Politics and short-term interest may cloud one's opinions about environmental laws, but let's jump ahead 40 years to when you have kids or grandkids and enjoy downloading the Baylor Alumni magazine from the Internet. I doubt that you will think about your life during and after college, wishing that you fought for more oil exploration in the Arctic or that you wrote petitions to the president asking him to allow the last of the ancient Pacific forests to be felled and turned into desks and chairs for the elite.

Forward-thinking people must realize that this world is where we live, just as our progeny will. If the political agenda does not focus on the future, then on what basis do the law and values of the government stand? If all that people today worry about is their own personal gain, then there is no need for a new president to do much of anything.

From the perspective as this country's steward-in-chief, President Clinton's work on issues relating to the environment is praiseworthy. Consider his administration's launch of over 50 major initiatives to improve energy efficiency and develop renewable energy sources. These programs can be correlated directly to cost of running the government because efficiency in electricity use cuts costs. The ENS article reported that in 1999 alone, the federal government reduced its energy bill by $800 million dollars by implementing new standards for common machines like water heaters, refrigerators, washing machines and cooking equipment.

The relative ease by which this dramatic cost savings was reached, mixed with the clear benefits available to businesses working in these fields, shows how Clinton's legacy will be generally favorable relating to the environment. Sure, he did not push the Kyoto Treaty through the Senate, nor did he work through both houses of Congress to get some federal land set aside. On the other hand, he says that as president he has 'tried to give all Americans the tools and conditions to build the future of our dreams in a good society, with a strong economy, a cleaner environment and a freer, safer more prosperous world,' the ENS reported.

Clinton's legacy ultimately will be different to different people. Just days after he left office, I am already concerned about the changes Bush is hinting at: halting all of the most recent executive orders Clinton made, including those relating to environmental pollution.

Sometimes George W. Bush is made fun of as an unintelligent cowboy, but I hope he is smart enough to realize that he must leave the nation better than he found it.


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