WASHINGTON -- April 29 -- President Bush has outlined a series of recommendations for addressing the nation's worsening energy problems whose priorities are badly
misplaced, both nationally and internationally. The President's focus is still on the past, not the future. And while he has belatedly included some positive sustainable energy initiatives, his emphasis on fossil fuels and nuclear power would - in balance - continue to move the nation in the wrong direction.
His proposed policies would not
- reduce imports of oil and natural gas or decrease the nation's worsening trade deficit.
- lower energy costs for consumers or stem the loss of domestic industries and jobs.
- diminish the damage being done to the environment and public health by energy production and use.
- curb the gases contributing to global climate change.
On the other hand, they would
- increase energy imports and exacerbate the negative economic impacts of the nation's over-reliance on fossil fuels.
- undermine states' rights and public safety by forcing the construction of nuclear power plants and LNG facilities on unwilling communities.
- endanger national security by expanding the number of potential terrorist targets (e.g., nuclear and LNG plants) as well as make the U.S. more dependent on energy imports from unstable regions of the world.
- worsen environmental and public health problems as well as global warming through the construction of more oil refineries, opening oil and gas drilling in environmentally-sensitive areas, and expanding the use of coal.
However, the President is correct to support efforts to further tap the potential of energy efficiency improvements throughout the economy - although he neglected to mention the single most needed measure: substantially higher fuel efficiency standards for cars, buses, and trucks.
A strong program of energy efficiency initiatives aimed at cars and trucks, appliances, buildings, and industry alone could - over time - wean the United States from most, and possibly all, of its energy imports -- far more quickly and at far lower costs to the economy, the environment, and the nation's security. Over the next 20 years, aggressive energy efficiency improvements could actually reduce national energy use by as much as 20% or more.
The President is also correct to acknowledge the opportunities offered by expanded use of renewable energy technologies including solar, wind, biofuels, and renewably-based hydrogen - although he neglected to mention biomass, geothermal, hydro and other water power technologies.
Policies such as a Renewable Portfolio Standard, a Renewable Fuels Standard, transmission access reforms, production and investment tax incentives, uniform net metering standards, and increased budgetary support could greatly increase the share of the nation's energy derived from the cross-section of renewable energy technologies. Over the next two decades, it is possible to at least double the energy now provided by renewable sources so that they meet 20% or more of the nation's energy needs.
Moreover, a national policy based on investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy would generate tens of thousands of high-quality domestic jobs and businesses while improving the environment, curbing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the trade deficit, enhancing transmission grid reliability, safeguarding public health, and increasing national security.
Unfortunately, the Administration's proposed funding levels and other policies to support these and other sustainable energy technologies pale in comparison to what it is advancing for fossil fuels and nuclear power. In fact, the White House is now seeking to cut the federal budget for most energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.
Moreover, the potential of energy efficiency and renewable energy will not be realized if the nation invests its limited resources in the wrong-headed, unfocused, and unbalanced approach outlined by the President.
Therefore, the President's proposals to expand the nation's use of environmentally polluting and expensive nuclear power and fossil fuels, or to drill, dig and burn its way out of its energy problems should be rejected.
AMERICAN SOLAR ENERGY SOCIETY ** BOB LAWRENCE & ASSOCIATES ** COLORADO
ENERGY GROUP ** ENERGY INNOVATIONS ** ENVIRONMENTAL AND ENERGY STUDY
INSTITUTE ** GREENPEACE ** NEW COMMUNITY PROJECT ** REDWOOD ALLIANCE ** SUN
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