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George W. Bush, in a stunning role reversal, has stepped forward to clarify the remarks of a subordinate. Vice President Dick Cheney had sounded a little too blunt in his contempt for energy conservation.
outlining the administration’s new energy policy, Cheney had indicated
the strategy would rely heavily on increasing oil, natural gas, coal and
nuclear energy supplies, while slow-tracking the search for alternative
energy solutions and curtailing efforts to achieve significant new energy
may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a
sound, comprehensive energy policy,” the former Halliburton Co. chief
executive said in a speech in Toronto.
analysts interpreted Cheney’s reference to “personal virtue” as a
knock on Jimmy Carter and his cardigan-sweater-wearing speeches of the
1970s, a recollection that was sure to get a chuckle from Republicans of
Cheney’s age group.
the apparent dismissal of conservation as a meaningful factor in meeting
U.S. energy needs came across as a bit over the top to many. So,
uncharacteristically, it fell to Bush – normally the one who needs
bailing out on his own words – to do some damage control.
think conservation has got to be part of making sure we have got a
reasonable energy policy, but what the vice president was saying was we
can’t conserve our way to energy independence,” Bush said. “We have
got to do both. We’ve got to conserve, but we also have to find new
sources of energy.” [NYT, May 3, 2001]
more nuanced language, however, can’t conceal the reality that this
administration – dominated by oil men – is about to embark on an
energy policy that seeks to ensure that Americans can buy and use the
energy they want, without asking much in life-style sacrifices or worrying
about larger environmental consequences.
the Bush-Cheney team unveils its energy policy this week, Bush again is
expected to speak favorably about conservation. There also might be some
tax incentives for buying more fuel-efficient cars.
the overall strategy will remain heavily weighted toward energy
production, administration officials agree. The Bush-Cheney plan is even
likely to propose a reduction in national conservation programs and do
little to exploit technological developments that have made the promise of
energy efficiency brighter than ever before.
experts contend that Bush’s energy policies are missing the practical
– as well as the virtuous – side of energy conservation.
day after Cheney's remarks, James E. Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard
Institute for Space Studies and a leading scientist on climate change,
told a Senate Commerce Committee hearing that the United States has not
tested the extent of potential energy savings from conservation.
such as the United States, have made only modest efforts at
conservation,” Hansen said.
Indeed, an examination of conservation efforts over the last two decades suggests that conservation could have played a much bigger role in avoiding the recent U.S. energy shortages.
the 1970s, the U.S. has been moving in the wrong direction on energy
conservation, according to a United Nations report released last year. The
report finds, “From 1983-98, the United States lost all the gains in
energy conservation it achieved in 1973-83.” [UN report, “Energy and
the Challenge of Sustainability,” 2000]
the 1980s and 1990s, “per capita residential energy consumption rose by
10 percent, offsetting its 10 percent reduction from 1973-1983 and rising
to within 2 percent of its 1973 peak,” according to the report.
virtually every facet of life, Americans today are less efficient and more
wasteful than in the 1970s. While the number of people who live in each
household has decreased by one-sixth, the size of the average home has
increased by a third. All things being equal, larger homes are more
inefficient than smaller homes since they require more energy to heat and
are another problem as roads and highways continue to dominate
transportation services. Americans are driving bigger, more wasteful
automobiles than at any time since the 1970s. The average horsepower of
vehicles grew more than 50 percent from 1982 to 1996, the UN report said.
The popularity of sport utility vehicles and other light trucks also has
contributed to the decline in the fuel economy of the average American
and commercial energy use, which declined 18 percent from 1973-83, rose 37
percent from 1983-97, according to the UN report. Altogether, the U.S.
uses twice as much energy as Europe to achieve roughly the same standard
According to the Energy Information Agency of the U.S. Energy Department, the U.S. accounted for 84 percent of the total energy consumption in North America and more than 25 percent of the total world’s energy consumption in 1999. The U.S. consumed more than Western Europe, Canada and Mexico combined and more than three times the amount of energy consumed by China, the world’s second-biggest energy consumer.
What do these statistics mean? For one thing, the U.S. is the world’s number-one emitter of global-warming pollution.
representing only 4 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. emits
nearly a quarter of the world’s global-warming gases. As countries such
as the United Kingdom, Finland and Germany have decreased their
global-warming pollution since 1990, the U.S. increased its pollution by
10 percent between 1990 and 1998, according to UN data.
U.S. lead in global-warming emissions is so great that not only does the
U.S. emit more than twice as much global-warming pollution as the next
biggest emitter, China, but U.S. cars and light trucks alone emit 260
million metric tons of pollutants every year, more than the total
emissions of any other country in the world, except for China, Russia and
bad as America’s energy consumption record is, it could get worse.
Bush’s budget cuts funds for conservation programs while a Cheney-led
task force is pressing for an energy policy weighted heavily toward energy
the "real-men-don't-conserve" swagger of the Bush administration
is putting the U.S. even more out of step with the world – and even with
an awakening recognition among many Americans about the need for more
automotive technology. Japan has exported into the U.S. market two cars,
the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight, that each get better than 60 miles
to the gallon by utilizing a hybrid electric/gasoline engine. The
Washington Post reports that the two Japanese hybrids are virtually sold
out in the U.S.
is a five-month waiting period to purchase the Toyota Prius, which has
become something of a status symbol among progressive politicians, such as
Maine’s Gov. Angus King, and Hollywood celebrities, such as Leonardo
DiCaprio who owns two. [Washington Post, May 3, 2001]
the Bush administration has proposed slashing about 35 percent of the
funds for the public-private partnership with U.S. auto manufacturers to
develop more fuel-efficient cars. This "Partnership for a New
Generation of Vehicles" had been championed by former Vice President
Even some leaders in America’s auto industry are acknowledging that more can be done to create environmentally friendly cars.
last year's campaign, Ford Motor Co.'s Chairman William Clay Ford Jr.
predicted that fuel cells “will finally end the 100-year reign of the
internal combustion engine.” [AP, Oct. 23, 2000]
recently, Ford formally acknowledged the seriousness of global warming and
committed resources to improving fuel efficiency in its auto fleet. Ford
is working on a hybrid car of its own to compete with the Toyota and Honda
industry leaders also are uneasy with the Bush administration's
supply-side emphasis. Bush disappointed many utility industry executives
when he broke his campaign pledge to curb global warming pollution,
according to an article by Chuck Sudetic in Rolling Stone. [May 10, 2001]
Many utilities companies want to take steps to modernize their facilities and address the problem of global warming pollution, sooner rather than later, the article reported.
want him [Bush] to know that if he thought he was doing a favor to some
big companies, there are other big companies that don’t think he did,”
remarked one unnamed executive from a Midwestern utility company.
some utility executives, the problem created by Bush’s abandoned
campaign promise on cutting carbon-dioxide emissions is the uncertainty.
Some see their industry's future in transitioning away from coal-burning
power plants to natural gas, which emits far less global-warming pollution
into the atmosphere.
Others want to get out in front of the problem to avoid a sudden shift in public sentiment when the climate becomes less stable. From this perspective, many in the utility industry are hoping to implement gradual change over time as opposed to being hit with stiffer regulations down the road.
Some energy analysts are discouraged by the Bush-Cheney course because they see new, cleaner energy sources just over the horizon.
to one researcher, Seth Dunn from World Watch Institute, hydrogen could
replace fossil fuels as the primary energy source within a few decades.
this evolution are the advances in fuel-cell technology, he said. A fuel
cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity. Instead of CO2
(carbon dioxide) emitted in the burning of fossil fuels, the
“pollution” released by fuel cells is H2O – water.
the U.S. has been a leader in developing and improving fuel-cell
technologies, mostly through military and space programs, other countries
are committing themselves to integrating fuel cells into their national
energy plans. In February 1999, Iceland announced a joint venture with
industry to create the world’s first hydrogen economy. The goal is to
complete the transition between 2030 and 2040.
a different path, the Bush administration is pooh-poohing the promise of
new technologies and ignoring the advice of scientists who say energy
conservation can achieve major energy savings.
New York Times reported that “scientists at the country's national
laboratories have projected enormous energy savings if the government
takes aggressive steps to encourage energy conservation in homes,
factories, offices, appliances, cars and power plants.”
This energy conservation report issued by five national laboratories took three years to produce and was completed just before Bush took office.
report suggests that the total energy savings could reduce "growth in
electricity demand by 20 percent to 47 percent," the Times reported,
"the equivalent of between 265 and 610 big 300-megawatt power plants,
a steep reduction from the 1,300 new plants that the administration
predicts will be needed."
So far, the Bush administration has dismissed the practicality of both major savings from conservation and from alternative fuel sources.
are looking for practical solutions here,” said Jeanne Lopatto, a
spokeswoman for the Energy Department. “Whatever works, we're interested
in. But some of these ideas have been funded over many years and they have
a very small impact on energy needs.” [NYT, May 5, 2001]
In an interview with USA Today, Cheney accused his critics of wearing "blinders" about the realities of the energy problem. [USA Today, May 11-13, 2001]
Bush again sought to color the administration's policy in greener hues.
According to The Washington Post, he plans to talk about what he will call
"21st century conservation," even as he pushes for a
plan that will cut environmental regulations and expand the nation's
energy infrastructure by clearing the way for more coal mines, oil
refineries, gas pipelines and nuclear reactors. [WP, May 13, 2001]
the rhetoric, the Bush administration appears intent on returning to what
it considers old, reliable energy technologies. This hard-headed realism,
the Bush-Cheney team insists, must replace starry-eyed dreaming about new
technologies to meet energy needs or intrusive heckling of Americans about
their wasteful lifestyles.
and Cheney seem to have settled on a back-to-the-future approach aimed at
returning the country to a pre-1970s era before there were worries about
energy shortages and global warming.
is a strategy intended to keep American cars out of gas lines – and
American presidents out of cardigan sweaters.