Bush Administration Energy Plan Taking Focus

In a place where he could put his point across no more clearly --- a room full of Associated Press journalists --- Vice President Dick Cheney last Monday used a Canadian pulpit to begin the official push for advancing the Bush Administration's official energy policy. Cheney noted that without a solid energy plan, the entire country faces future energy shortages similar to California's current crisis.

Although Cheney said he would save the specifics for President George W. Bush to deliver, the vice president made his first official statements outside of the United States in Toronto to tell his audience that the coming energy policy would be a "mix of new legislation, executive action and private initiatives" when the administration's official energy policy is unveiled. That unveiling is expected sometime this month in a major policy speech by Bush.

Just days after Cheney delivered his speech, which stressed production over conservation, Bush issued a memorandum on Thursday, requiring energy conservation at federal facilities in California. There was no signal that he would urge the same throughout the country.

"A key component of my administration's overall commitment to make the most economical use of public dollars and to protect the environment is to improve energy conservation at federal facilities," Bush said in his memo. Directed toward the problems in California, Bush directed the heads of executive departments and agencies to "take appropriate actions to conserve energy use at their facilities to the maximum extent consistent with the effective discharge of public responsibilities. Agencies located in regions where electricity shortages are possible should conserve, especially during periods of peak demand."

The Energy Department said that Bush is ordering federal buildings in California to set thermostats at 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and to turn off escalators, among other things.

While not disagreeing with his boss, in his remarks before the AP audience, Cheney said the answer to a solid energy policy relies heavily on oil, natural gas and nuclear power development, but not on conservation, according to wire service reports. He added that the country cannot "simply conserve or ration our way out of the situation we're in."

With energy woes in California seemingly endless, Cheney said, "Without a clear, coherent energy strategy for the nation, all Americans could one day go through what Californians are experiencing now, or even worse," according to the Associated Press report.

Just to meet projected increases in nationwide demand, Cheney echoed what pundits have been forecasting for months: that over the next 20 years, the country will need between 1,300 and 1,900 new power plants to meet projected increases in electricity.

Regarding natural gas, Cheney said the United States would need 38,000 miles of new pipelines and thousands of more miles of added distribution lines for expanded residential and commercial use. He also said that some federal initiatives could boost the use of hydroelectric dams and new nuclear plant construction.

Along with additional exploration must come new refineries, Cheney said, noting that it has been 20 years since a large oil refinery was built in the United States. He also suggested federal initiatives to boost the use of hydroelectric dams and the construction of new nuclear power plants. He called nuclear power "a safe, clean, very plentiful energy source."

Among other things, Cheney again said the Bush Administration would push to open up a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to exploration, reports emerging from the Toronto conference said. Opening up closed areas is critical, he said, and he suggested not just oil, but also all forms of alternative energy to meet demand in the coming years.

Coal was another energy source mentioned by Cheney. He said the fossil fuel remains the "most available, most affordable way to generate electric power." In the current budget, not yet passed by Congress, the Administration has budgeted about $150 million in 2002 to develop cleaner coal technology.

The vice president said the current energy shortages were the result of shortsighted decision making about energy. While he noted that conservation was a "sign of personal virtue," he said it would not act as a sound or complete policy.

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