George Bush Sr. on Energy & Oil

President of the U.S., 1989-1993; Former Republican Rep. (TX)


1989: supported cap-and-trade via United Nations

In 1989, President Bush sent his secretary of state, James Baker, to the UN's first annual meeting on climate change. In 1992 his final year in office, Bush submitted the United Nations Framework convention on Climate Change, the first-ever global treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to the secretary for ratification, and the treaty was indeed ratified through a two-thirds vote. The vote included ayes by Mitch McConnell and Trent Lott, neither of them known as a starry-eyed tree hugger.

There are many remarkable facts about this period, especially from today's perspective. For one, Washington actually functioned. When some of the left proposed command-and-control regulation of industry, Republicans countered with ideas like cap-and-trade, a market based approach that allows firms to buy and sell pollution credits (an idea many Republicans now oppose and a classic example of how political winds have shifted).

Source: Land of Flickering Lights, by Michael Bennet, p. 79-80 , Jun 25, 2019

Helped negotiate Kyoto Treaty on climate change

Both Pres. George H.W. Bush and Pres. Bill Clinton helped to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol, designed to establish a worldwide commitment to control atmospheric pollution and reduce the buildup of gases that are the cause of global warming.

In 1992, the largest group of world leaders in history met in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in what became known as the Earth Summit. Pres. George H.W. Bush and others called on the world to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions by 2000 at the 1990 level, especially CO2. The US and other nations ratified this convention. Importantly, Bush negotiated an agreement to allow developing nations to be excluded from the restriction, since industrialized countries are the overwhelming contributors to the troubling emissions.

[In 2001], newly inaugurated Pres. George W. Bush announced that the Kyoto agreement's mandatory reductions in greenhouse gases and short timetable would be too expensive and unwise when the US was facing energy problems.

Source: Our Endangered Values, by Jimmy Carter, p.171-172 , Sep 26, 2006

1948: Moved to Texas to make fortune in oil fields

Upon graduation in 1948 George called "Uncle Neil" for job advice. "What you need to do is head out to Texas and those oil fields," Neil Mallon said. "That's the place for ambitious young people these days." He then offered George an opportunity to learn the business from the bottom up as trainee for IDECO (International Derrick & Equipment Company), at $300 a month. According to George's recollection in his autobiography, Mallon said, "There's not much salary, but if you want to learn the oil business, it's a start."

George neglected to mention the pot of gold that "Uncle Neil" had promised him at the end of the rainbow. According to his brother Prescott, Neil Mallon had told George before he started at Dresser: "You'll have a chance to run the company someday."

"There wasn't anything subtle or complicated about [our move to Texas]," George admitted at the time. "We just wanted to make a lot of money quick." Some people saw it as nothing more than George relocating "to work for his father."

Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.101 , Sep 14, 2004

1956: Deregulation encourages more natural gas exploration

In 1956 the issue was deregulating the gas industry. George, like all Texas oilmen, supported the scheme. He called his father [Senator Prescott Bush] to discuss the legislation. George claimed that deregulation would encourage more independent producers to explore for natural gas, which would increase the supply and thus ultimately lower prices. Prescott, who maintained that prices would skyrocket with deregulation [which would hurt his urban constituents], was unimpressed by his son's argument. Eisenhower vetoed the bill, and the Senate did not override the presidential veto.

On this issue, Prescott voted principle over purse. The negative effect on a member of his own family did not change his decision. Unfortunately, the father's political template would never become the son's. Unlike his father, George needed to be liked by everyone rather than be respected. That left no room for taking an unpopular stand, even if it meant doing the right thing for his constituents.

Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.168-170 , Sep 14, 2004

1950s goal: financial success in oil; then politics

Becoming what his father had become became George's goal in life. first financial success; then politics. He needed no other focus beyond scaling Mount Prescott. Eventually he would achieve both, but, according to many who knew him, he would never feel that he had lived up to his father's accomplishments. "Even after he became President of the US, he felt diminished by his old man."

George began his serious ascent toward financial success from 1955-1959, running Zapata Offshore Company. George paid himself a salary of $30,000 ($192,000 in 2004) a year. His biggest responsibility during those years was chasing money. Zapata Offshore started with a $1.5 million stock offering. Among the stockholders were most of George's Skull and Bones class from Yale. George thought the treasure of the oil business lay in foreign offshore drilling. In 1959 George decided to move his family and Zapata Offshore to Houston to be closer to the Gulf of Mexico.

Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.189-190 , Sep 14, 2004

1948: Moved to TX for oil, instead of family's Wall Street

In 1948 George graduated from Yale with a degree in economics and set out for West Texas the very next day. He had decided not to follow Prescott Bush to Wall Street but rather to make his own way. "I wanted to do something on my own," he later said. "I did not want to be in the shadow of this very powerful and respected man." It is a telling statement. Clearly, George H. W. Bush wanted to break free of his button-down New England life with its staid conventions and throw himself into the risky, promising world of oil town West Texas. Perhaps he wanted to test himself in a profession his father had not prepared for him. Or perhaps it was simply that there was big money to be made.
Source: The Faith of George W. Bush, by Stephen Mansfield, p. 28 , Apr 12, 2004

Took no stance nor action on global climate change

Bush's environmental initiatives did not come without a substantial amount of criticism. His administration was chastised for failing to take stands on a series of issues-most notably, the growing problem of global climate change. Bush was given a "D" by the League of Conservation Voters for his environmental efforts and was criticized for failing to live up to his promise to be "the environmental President."
Source: Cameron Lynch in W&M Env. Law Review, vol. 26 #1, p.224-225 , Jan 1, 2001

1953: Founded Zapata Petroleum Corp. with $350,000 capital

In late 1950, Bush decided to leave Dresser Industries and go into business with his neighbor John Overbey. Overbey made his living in the Permian Basin as a petroleum industry landman, an independent operator who attempted to identify properties where oil might be discovered. Over cold martinis in his backyard, Bush offered to raise capital back East if Overbey would join him in a partnership.

The result of the odyssey back East was a capital investment of $350,000 and the formation of the Bush-Overbey Oil Development Company, Inc. The name chosen for the new company was Zapata Petroleum Corporation, drawn from "Viva, Zapata!", the Marlon Brando film about the Mexican revolutionary. The entrepreneurs later said part of the appeal of the name was the confusion as to whether Zapata had been a part of a patriot or a bandit. "We couldn't afford a public-relations counsel", Bush acknowledged, "but if we had one he would have told us that was exactly the corporate image we were looking for."

Source: Fortunate Son, by J.H.Hatfield, p. 16-17 , Aug 17, 1999

Supports environmentally-responsive access to ANWR

"I am going to continue to support environmentally responsive access to ANWR, the Alaskan refuge, for energy production. We need it. And if you're worried about the caribou, take a look at the arguments that were used about the [Alaskan] pipeline. They'd say the caribou would be extinct. You've got to shake them away with a stick. They're all making love lying up next to the pipeline. And you've got thousands of caribou up there. And yet the same voices, the same voices are arguing against ANWR today. I mean, come on."
(Remarks at the Bush-Quayle fund-raising dinner in Houston, Texas, Sheraton Astrodome Hotel)
Source: Heartbeat, by Jim McGrath, p.193 , Oct 31, 1991

Rely on the magic of the marketplace for energy strategy

Our comprehensive and balanced strategy [promises] an energy future that is secure, efficient, and environmentally sound. Our national energy strategy is designed to meet needs this Nation can't afford to compromise: continued economic growth energy efficiency, strong environmental protection, and then a reduced dependence on foreign oil.

This strategy relies on the magic of the marketplace, the resourcefulness of the American people, and the responsible leadership of industry &

Some have pushed for radical measures to reduce oil imports and reduce our dependency, measures that, in my view, would hurt American industries and jobs and consumers. So, we've got to act with care; but it is our firm belief that we've g comprehensively. And our energy strategy strikes a balance. We've encouraged the use of a whole range of environmentally sound fuels like ethanol, methanol, electricity, propane, and certainly, encouraging the use of more clean burning natura

Source: Remarks on the National Energy Strategy (APP) , Jul 24, 1991

Pioneer in the offshore drilling industry

Author's note: Before entering politics, George Bush was one of the original pioneers in the offshore drilling industry.

"Our company was a high-risk venture. There was new technology that was unproven, full of half-starts and failures in that--it was all called the offshore drilling business. And we took a gamble, and we invested in new technology, and then we succeeded in pioneering a new way to find America's energy."

Source: Heartbeat, by Jim McGrath, p. 27 , Mar 14, 1989

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Other past presidents on Energy & Oil: George Bush Sr. on other issues:
Former Presidents:
Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

Past Vice Presidents:
V.P.Joseph Biden
V.P.Dick Cheney
V.P.Al Gore
V.P.Dan Quayle
Sen.Bob Dole

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Page last updated: Feb 22, 2022