WASHINGTON, DC—In a nationally televised address reminiscent of President Kennedy's historic 1961 speech pledging to put a man on the moon, President Bush responded to the global warming crisis Monday by calling for the construction of a giant national air conditioner by the year 2015.
"Climate change is real and it demands a real solution," Bush said. "Therefore, I am committed to dedicating all of the technology, all of the brainpower, and all of the resources we need in order to keep America cool and comfortable well into the 21st century."
The National Air Conditioner Initiative is expected to be the largest public works project in the nation's history. Because technology capable of creating an air conditioner that can fulfill the cooling needs of a continental land mass does not presently exist, the president estimated that research and development alone will require at least $100 trillion in both federal and private sector funds.
"The challenge of building an air conditioner for all Americans will be the greatest we have ever faced," Bush said. "But we must face it. We must act now to ensure that our children and our children's children can live in a world where they don't get sweaty and have to change their shirts all the time."
While Bush's speech left many questions unanswered, such as whether the one-touch cooling settings would be under federal or state jurisdiction, reaction from congressional Democrats and Republicans has been largely favorable.
"I applaud the administration for finally taking this issue seriously," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. "Such a giant apparatus means that Americans from all walks of life, not just the wealthy and privileged, will be able to get relief from the rise in the Earth's surface temperature. And it will create a great many jobs. Just removing and rinsing out the huge filter will require tens of thousands of seasonal laborers."
Petrochemical industry leaders voiced early support of the plan, which would stimulate additional exploration and production of oil and gas to satisfy the machine's staggering energy needs.
Some fiscal conservatives, however, decry the cost of the project and the gargantuan electric bills that would result, saying that a series of mile-high oscillating fans stationed in the Pacific Northwest and blowing in the direction of the jet stream would accomplish essentially the same thing and save billions. Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan expressed his concern that illegal aliens would benefit unfairly from the air conditioner, since many of them work outside, and questioned President Bush's ability to "seal the nation's borders in order to keep the cool air in."
Environmental groups like the Sierra Club have taken a tough stance on the president's plan, demanding it contain legally binding language that ensures the air conditioner will be switched to a special energy-conserving "sleep" setting when the country cools off at night. The White House has shown interest in an "economy mode" option that could be used in the event of a budgetary crisis, but it is still unknown whether such a massive unit would qualify for an Energy Star certification, let alone accommodate built-in money-saving features.
The strongest opposition to the plan has come from Canada. Because the proposed National Air Conditioner would cover 90 percent of the state of North Dakota and face south, the U.S.'s northern neighbor would be directly in the path of superheated air expelled from the machine's back vents. Though Prime Minister Stephen Harper said this would create drought conditions and devastate their farmlands, most believe Canada lacks the clout to halt Bush's air-conditioning agenda.
American air conditioner manufacturers, with whom President Bush reportedly consulted extensively prior to announcing the initiative, will soon be awarded tens of trillions of dollars to design and build the components necessary for the giant unit. Industry leader Lennox is expected to receive at least $30 trillion, including a massive installation fee, while the Carrier Corporation, Trane, and Amana are all jockeying for the next largest contracts.
"Global warming threatens us all, whether we're mowing our lawns, rafting down a river in a national park, or driving to the end of the driveway to get our mail," Bush said. "The task that lies ahead is undeniably hard. But if we do not succeed, we will be profoundly inconvenienced. And I promise you: America will not let that happen."
Speaking at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser Monday night, Al Gore said that now that Bush has taken up the cause of global warming, the former vice president and environmental activist will redirect his energies toward developing a personal spacecraft capable of transporting a family of four to a distant planet.