Tags: Bush | Calls | for | Energy | Sector | Overhaul

Bush Calls for Energy Sector Overhaul

Thursday, 17 May 2001 12:00 AM

"If we fail to act on this plan, energy prices will continue to rise," Bush said in remarks at an energy plant. "This great country could face a darker future."

The White House report said the United States is facing an energy crisis not seen since the 1970s, when shortfalls in oil imports caused long lines at gas pumps and record heating and cooling bills.

Bush pointed to power shortages in California, where peak summer electricity usage is expected to worsen so-called rolling blackouts.

"If we fail to act, Americans will have more and more widespread blackouts," Bush said.

The thrust of the report's 105 recommendations hinge on increased oil and gas exploration and production, including proposals for a drilling on federally protected lands in Alaska and a new natural gas pipeline linking petroleum fields inside the arctic circle to the lower 48 states.

Additionally, the report calls for a refurbishment and expansion of the country's electric generators, transmission lines, pipelines and refineries.

Bush called infrastructure in the U.S. energy sector "old and stale" in a meeting at the White House Wednesday, where an energy task force headed by Vice President Dick Cheney formally presented its recommendations after three months of policy review behind closed doors.

"We've got innovative approaches to be able to move product from one part of the country to another," Bush said. "Or natural gas, for example, from outside our borders to inside our borders."

The United States needs about 38,000 miles of additional gas pipelines (there are about 2 million now) and about 25,000 additional miles of power transmission lines, according to the report.

The creation of new nuclear power plants and greater usage of coal and hydro-electric technologies should also play role in meeting the increasing U.S. energy needs, the report said.

White House officials said power demand in the United States will increase by 1.8 percent annually through the next 20 years, a pace that will dramatically outstrip supplies.

"This imbalance, if allowed to continue, will inevitably undermine our standard of living and our national security," the report said. "America must have in place between 1,300 and 1,900 new electric plants."

The administration's plan also focuses on increased conservation measure to ease power demands, though the report downplays the significance of conservation strategies on the overall U.S. energy supply, especially in the near term.

"Alternatives and renewables, I think that, you know, you need a perspective," said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We need to push for more renewables and alternative fuels, but currently only 2 percent of our electricity needs come from non-hydro-powered renewables."

Forty-two of the report's recommendations are aimed at conservation and environmental protections measures, the White House said. Thirty-five of the proposals deal with increasing energy resources, and 25 focus on international issues, like increasing oil and gas imports from Mexico and Canada to the United States.

The plan would tack on about $6.3 billion to the White House's proposed budget. Congress has to approve 20 of the proposals, while 73 fall under the rubric of various federal agencies. About a dozen can be done through executive action by the president.

The White House official, a key member of the energy task force, said the president would move first on two executive orders: one calling on federal agencies to consider the potential effects on energy supplies of any new regulations and another to streamline federal approval for private projects like new electric plants.

"We're going to solve this problem," Bush said when the task force presented its report.

But, at the same time, Bush warned against expectations that the administration's efforts designed to find a long-term solution would ease current power crises in California and other western states or at the gas pump in peak summer months.

"We can't overcome the fact that we haven't built a refinery in years and we should have," Bush said.

Democrats have already attacked the White House proposals, which have slowly emerged in recent weeks ahead of the official announcement.

"The president has no program for the short term, telling people they are on their own," said House minority leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo. "And the only long term solution is to waive environmental protections and let the oil and gas industry poke holes in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, federal lands like National Parks and Forests, and drill off the coast of Florida."

Bush's efforts to open oil drilling in unexplored areas has also drawn fierce criticism from environmentalists, who say the president's energy policy is geared to benefit corporate interests in the oil and gas industry, where both Bush and Cheney have strong ties.

"President Bush's energy plan won't work," said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. "It makes the wrong choices, because we can't drill, dig or destroy our way out of our energy problems. That's why we're pushing for a more honest, balanced policy that promotes energy efficiency, uses clean renewable energy like wind and solar power, and emphasizes responsible production."

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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If we fail to act on this plan, energy prices will continue to rise, Bush said in remarks at an energy plant. This great country could face a darker future. The White House report said the United States is facing an energy crisis not seen since the 1970s, when...
Thursday, 17 May 2001 12:00 AM
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