Environmental Groups Criticize U.S. Vice President

The Natural Resources Defense Council was one of the first groups to respond negatively to federal energy policy that downplays the role of conservation and renewable energy.

WASHINGTON, DC, US, 2001-05-01 <SolarAccess.com> U.S. vice president Dick Cheney has outlined a national energy strategy that relies heavily on development of oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear power, but not conservation. In a speech to reporters in Toronto, he warned that the entire U.S. could face blackouts such as those experienced in California unless there is increased supply of fossil fuels. “His solution to increase America’s reliance on fossil fuels is the pollution solution,” explains NRDC’s David Doniger, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency office on climate change. “The fact is we can meet our energy needs, and save consumers money, without despoiling pristine wilderness areas or rolling back environmental protections.” Cheney gave short shrift to dampening demand through energy efficiency or increasing our reliance on renewable energy sources, explains Doniger. Cheney promised to subsidize ‘clean coal’ technology, but Doniger says “there is no technology today to clean up the carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal, so increasing our dependence on coal means making the global warming problem worse.” NRDC’s report, ‘A Responsible Energy Policy for the 21st Century,’ concluded that increasing average fuel economy for cars to 39 miles per gallon would save 15 times more oil that could be economically recovered from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain, and would save drivers billions of dollars a year at the gas pump. “Scaremongering about California is not a responsible way to talk about U.S. energy needs,” adds Doniger. “We can meet our energy needs and protect the environment at the same time, but not with what Mr. Cheney proposes.” “Over the next two decades, it will take between 1,300 and 1,900 new power plants – or one every week for 20 years – just to meet projected increases in nationwide demand,” said Cheney. “The aim here is efficiency, not austerity,” and he said the U.S. cannot “simply conserve or ration our way out of the situation we’re in.” Cheney is a former executive of an oil services company, and said alternative fuels are still “years down the road.” His trip to Toronto was his first official visit outside of the U.S. Alternative sources of fuel in the future may prove to be much more plentiful but “we are not yet in a position to stake our economy and our own way of life on that possibility,” he said. Conservation, while perhaps “a sign of personal virtue,” does not make for sound or comprehensive policy, and he promised that his new energy policy will contain “a mix of new legislation, some executive action as well as private initiatives” to cope with rising energy prices and growing demand. Cheney heads a task force to prepare a strategy on U.S. energy, and his report is expected to be released in mid May. The Bush administration will push for oil drilling in the 19 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge despite strong congressional opposition, saying the affected land would be 2,000 acres. Federal initiatives will boost the use of hydroelectric dams and the construction of new nuclear reactors, calling nuclear “a safe, clean, very plentiful energy source.” Coal remains the most available, most affordable way to generate electric power, and he called for 38,000 miles of additional natural gas pipeline and thousands of miles of added distribution lines to increase consumption of natural gas. “America’s energy challenges are serious, but not perplexing,” he said. “We know what needs to be done, we’ve always had the ability, we still have the resources.” By 2020, the U.S. will rely on foreign sources for 64 percent of oil, compared to 56 percent today, and natural gas demand will rise by two-thirds, he explained.

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