Bush Energy Policy: Fuels Rush In

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James A. Chamblee

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Jun 7, 2001, 12:12:43 PM6/7/01
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By John Berger, Ph.D.

SAN FRANCISCO, California, June 6, 2001 (ENS) - Lobbyists for the oil, gas,
coal and nuclear industries can congratulate themselves on a job well done.
The Bush administration's energy plan reads as if it were drafted by a
second GOP - gas, oil and power interests.

Given reports of their entree with Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy
Policy Task Force, the energy interests got exactly what they wanted
relaxation of the Clean Air Act and other environmental regulations in order
to fast track a profusion of new power plants, creation of 38,000 miles of
new gas pipelines (12 times the width of America), expansion of oil
refineries under reduced regulation and approval to drill for oil with
impunity in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other protected public
lands.

A central component of the plan - the creation of a new national power
grid - is not a bad idea in principle. We do need new transmission capacity
to bring the nation's huge treasure trove of clean wind, geothermal, biomass
and solar electric energy to market. But if the transmission lines are
situated primarily to facilitate the transport of power generated by coal
and other fossil fuels, the nation will suffer a severe setback in its quest
for clean, affordable energy.

Another key element of the plan - increasing natural gas imports and the use
of federal powers of eminent domain to quash local opposition to the
proposed new pipelines - hardly seems to square with the vaunted "energy
independence" which the administration has emphasized.

Predictably, the plan shows little enthusiasm for renewable energy sources
and no immediate relief from soaring prices for electricity, natural gas and
gasoline.

It also ignores the issue of national fuel economy standards, a program that
has stagnated since 1975. Cheney, intellectual author of the plan unveiled
last week, promised only that the administration will "look at" the
standards issue.

Laudable by themselves are the plan's proposals for a small residential
solar tax credit, tax credits for hybrid-electric vehicles and the extension
of the Clinton administration's wind energy production tax incentives. But
these will have little effect on national energy use for the near future.

The plan curtseys to conservation, a last minute insert, provoked no doubt
by looking at public opinion polls. But the administration would further
slash the already inadequate research and development budgets for clean
energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydrogen and biomass power,
although Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, bowing to a growing backlash, has
said he would revisit these items.

But of much greater interest to the Bush administration is what Cheney calls
"environmentally friendly clean coal" which some might consider an oxymoron,
and a revival of the moribund nuclear power industry.

Under the plan, the Price-Anderson Act would be renewed, limiting the
liability of nuclear power plant owners in the event of a catastrophic
nuclear accident.

Catastrophic nuclear accidents don't seem to concern the vice president. He
is on record as referring to the Three Mile Island core-melt accident, in
which thousands of people were evacuated from their homes, as "the Three
Mile Island flap."

If you listen carefully to the supposed "need" to build 1,300 new power
plants - more than one a week for the next 20 years - you can actually hear
old ghosts a-croaking.

In 1972, the Atomic Energy Commission, in similar fear-mongering fashion,
declared that up to 1,500 large new nuclear power plants would be required
to meet the nation's energy needs. The AEC's successor, the Energy Research
and Development Administration, modified that ridiculous claim and more
circumspectly projected that 725 reactors by the year 2000 would do nicely.

That was the conventional wisdom of the Nixon-Ford years. Never mind that
giant cost overruns, expensive electricity, accident risks, waste problems
and proliferation concerns stopped the sales of these white elephants in the
mid-1970s, with America's civilian nuclear power inventory topping out at
103 plants. Yet this is the technology that Cheney now wants to resurrect,
calling it a safe, clean and plentiful energy source.

That is exactly the line the nuclear industry has been pushing since the
1950s when it promised that "our friend the atom" would produce power "too
cheap to meter." Tell that to the ratepayers of California who have had to
spend billions bailing out "stranded" nuclear assets, such as PG&E's Diablo
Canyon nuclear power plant.

In case anyone has forgotten, the cost of civilian nuclear power for
taxpayers, consumers and private investors has been estimated at $49 billion
(in 1990 dollars) between 1950 and 1990.

Perhaps that is why the vice president is so fond of it. Corporations like
Cheney's Halliburton Co. were deeply involved in slopping up the nuclear
gravy through Halliburton's subsidiaries, Ebasco Service Inc. and Brown &
Root Inc.

Consider, by contrast, his faintly contemptuous remark, "Conservation may be
a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound,
comprehensive energy policy."

Forget for a moment that not even the most committed environmentalist is
suggesting that we rely entirely on conservation to meet future energy
needs. Note instead that five national scientific laboratories have
recently shown that straightforward energy efficiency programs could
eliminate the need for more than 600 new power plants.

Aware of criticism, the Bush administration is now trying to make nice, with
Bush absurdly declaring his policy as "a new kind of conservation, a 21st
century conservation."

It's an interesting kind of "new" conservation that does not dare call upon
restraints on conspicuous consumption, no matter how unnecessarily
gas-guzzling the SUV or grandiose the monster home may be.

In a statement in May, the vice president actually said that he's not in
favor of doing more with less energy, a pronouncement a freshman engineering
student would find astounding.

Merrily burning as much nonrenewable fuel as possible, wringing the last
drop of oil from protected public lands, trampling on local rights in the
name of pipeline building and resurrecting the specter of nuclear power,
with all its danger and all its deadly waste, hardly comports with the
"compassionate conservatism" espoused by the Bush-Cheney election campaign.

Neither does it accord with the wishes of the American people.

The National Energy Policy is available online at
http://www.whitehouse.gov/energy/

{John Berger is an energy and environmental consultant. He has worked for
the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences,
corporations such as Lockheed and Chevron, nonprofit groups, and
governmental organizations, including the U.S. Congress. He is the author
of "Charging Ahead - The Business of Renewable Energy and What it Means for
America," and "Beating the Heat: Why and How We Must Combat Global
Warming."}

(c) Environment News Service (ENS) 2001. All Rights Reserved.

MW Hodges

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Jun 7, 2001, 3:26:19 PM6/7/01
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James,
Thanks for posting the Berger article. It's good to hear many views but
it's unfortunate when many, such as this one, are but rhetoric backed
without presented data - - and without discussing possible solutions
based on data. The article ends with, "Neither does it accord with the
wishes of the American people." - - as if the author thinks he's the
American people.

What the American people need, in my view, is more arms-length data not
created by special interests to better form their 'wishes.' One thing is
for sure and that is many Americans like their lights, air-conditioning,
autos AND jobs - - all requiring energy.

This energy challenge is a big challenge, and it's not going to
disappear by wishing it away or by continuing current practices. The
California challenge is but a tip of the iceberg

To add to information on the subject I recommend readers reviewing the
data graphics on energy in the Energy Report at
http://mwhodges.home.att.net/energy/energy.htm - -
- - and then decide for themselves regarding options and actions. I
believe many readers will thereby develop a keener understanding - - at
least better than an Ostrich.
--
M. Hodges
Email - mwho...@att.net
The Grandfather Economic Report
http://mwhodges.home.att.net/
Graphic presentation reviewing economic issues facing today's generation
compared to prior periods,
on: Family Income, debt, savings; government spending and size,
education quality, social security, regulations, taxes, inflation,
productivity, foreign trade and exchange, voter turnout, trust,
celebration, national security, energy, and health care/life expectancy


MelvinFullerton

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Jun 7, 2001, 5:46:16 PM6/7/01
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What the American people have needed
through the past 20th century and now in this 21st century,-is not to try to
continue
an endless stupid energy debate that has
gone on long enough;at a terrible cost in
human illnesses, lives-destruction of the
environment-and an ever increasing tax
payer and consumer cost--

In other words let's stop this endless public
opinion lobbyists political quibbling and get about the proper business of
government--

Which is to be effective in the best interests of this nation's population and
not what is good for Christian Capitalists
Dream of a Conquored World by the use
of stolen wealth from hapless economic
slaves in the so called "Land of the Free and the Home of the Knave."

We are once again shipping trillions of American Dollars overseas in this same
old phony energy crises--while we argue
about an "Energy Plan"full of political bullshit.

The lonely Island

melvin3620

Thomas A. Jones

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Jun 7, 2001, 8:38:02 PM6/7/01
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Interesting article by Berger, but.............he offers no alternative to
our growing energy needs other than conservation.....in other words, lower
our current standard of living and run the economy into a recession.....for
our nation to progress we will have to grow our energy production...there is
no other answer...

Tom


Ward Stewart

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Jun 7, 2001, 10:10:32 PM6/7/01
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Shall we return to my first automobile -- A 1945 Buick that got six
miles to the gallon?

ward

----------------------------------------------------
"Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since
the introduction of Christianity, have been burned,
tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced
one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect
of coercion?

To make half the world fools, and the other half
hypocrites.
Thomas Jefferson
-----------------------------------------------------

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