SAVAGE: Mr. Cheney, how do we educate the environmental movement folk that even in green France, they derive about 78 percent of their energy from nuclear power, while we in the U.S. derive only 20 percent of our power from nuclear reactors?
CHENEY: Well, that's a key point, Michael. I think we ought to do more in terms of nuclear. I think it is an effective power source; it's increasingly economical, especially with gas prices as high as they are today.
But there are also sound environmental reasons why it makes sense to go with nuclear power. If you go with nuclear power plants, you don't have the kind of greenhouse gas emissions that everybody's concerned about in connection with global warming. So there are sound environmental reasons why nuclear makes sense. And you're right, the French derive nearly 80 percent of their power from nuclear power, and they do it in a very safe fashion.
SAVAGE: But what amazes me, Mr. Vice President, is that here we have the image that somehow Europe is more green than America, and even the extremists in Europe are deriving much of their power from nuclear energy.
America has Alaska. Alaska is still a possession of the U.S. We have this amazing reserve of natural gas up in ANWR. I would love for you to tell the listeners of the Savage Nation what percent of that reserve would actually be affected by drilling.
CHENEY: Well, if you look at the ANWR, it's about 19 million acres. That's about the size of South Carolina. We think we could develop that, because it's really only an area along the coast. The whole 19 million acres is really not of interest from an energy standpoint. The area along the coast is. And we think that the total amount of disturbance for the total 19 million acres that would be required is only about 2,000 acres, an area roughly half the size of Dulles National Airport.
So the fact is that our technology has gotten very good so that we're able now with directional drilling to reach out several miles in any different direction, and develop and exploit resources underground without ever having much of a footprint on the surface.
Plus Alaska, in that part of Alaska, the way we do it now is to go in and build roads in the wintertime. In effect, these are ice roads, and they melt in the summertime, and there's no trace left of them. It's a very temporary kind of arrangement.
SAVAGE: You know, Mr. Cheney, this reminds me of a revisit to the Alaskan pipeline argument of the 1970s where we were told that it would disrupt the caribou. I understand that the caribou love the heat from the Alaskan pipeline, and there are more caribou today than there were then.
CHENEY: Last time I landed at Prudhoe Bay, our plane had to circle a couple of times because there were bears on the runway.
SAVAGE: OK, drill for bears; if we want more bears we need more drilling. I'm very serious, though, it seems to me that there is a balance that can be reached and achieved between our needs for energy. Let's face it, we need it, and that means the greens need it too. In order to fly to Quebec they need jet fuel.
We all need it whether we are left, right or center. And we want to be less reliant on foreign sources of oil, yet we're blessed with some natural resources that we're not using. I think that's the administration's main challenge, to get that message across.
CHENEY: Well, it is, and it's important for people to recognize that we want to make certain that we proceed in an environmentally sound fashion.
There isn't anyone, even in the oil industry these days, that wants to go in and ruin the environment; that's absolutely shortsighted. There's no benefit in that to anyone; everyone wants to be a good steward, and we do have the kind of technology now that lets us do it without having to make this false choice of either you have energy or you have a clean environment, when in fact you can do both.
SAVAGE: You know, Mr. Cheney, I must tell you this, that for the last few days on the Savage Nation, I've been noting that Senator Lieberman has suddenly become an ardent environmentalist, and I guess that's because he did do one outdoor press conference during his campaign. And I guess he got a real attachment to the environment when he was standing on that red carpet.
But how is it that for eight years there was no problem with arsenic in our water, and all of a sudden they've discovered that our babies are about to die from arsenic in our water supplies?
CHENEY: Arsenic is a naturally occurring substance in the water. The question is how much is acceptable from a health standpoint.
The old standard is 50 parts per billion. The new standard probably ought to be somewhat below that, but the Clinton administration popped out a regulation at the very tail end of 10 parts per billion. And that may be lower than it needs to be, and it's important to get it right, because if you force a community to go below where they really need to be, a lot of them will make a decision simply not to spend the money.
You'll end up with people taking water from other sources, and they may well end up with more arsenic in their water than if you set a reasonable standard that they could achieve at a decent cost. So there will be some modification in the standard. It will go down. Right now, the EPA is reviewing all the sides before they make a decision as to whether it ought to be 15 or 20 or where it ought to be set, but it will be less than 50 parts per billion.
SAVAGE: By the way, Vice President Cheney, this issue of global warming and the supposed dissent between Christie Todd Whitman and the White House doesn't make any sense to me. I've studied the issue. I am a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, and I have to mention that because most people in radio are really ignorant of the facts.
I haven't seen any evidence that there is any evidence for global warming. I'm sure you agree with me on that.
CHENEY: Well, what we're doing now, the president set up a task force to look at this whole question. We've got a good part of the Cabinet now reviewing all the science, calling in experts with various perspectives and points of view, hearing what everybody's got to say on this question. And there are questions about what exactly is happening and questions about what causes it.
There does appear to be some warming in the atmosphere. On the other hand, whether or not this is caused by man or is a result of natural factors at this point is the big debate. But we are taking a careful look at it. We do have an obligation to conduct ourselves in a safe and sane fashion here, and that's one of the areas we are reviewing.
SAVAGE: One last question, if I may. Mexico is certainly not in the same category as Iraq, Iran or Libya, yet all have tremendous oil supplies. We have sanctions on some of them. Mexican oil is in abundance. Do you think we are going to see new supplies coming out of Mexico?
CHENEY: Well, I would hope so. Mexico, of course, though, has a special political history, and that is they nationalized the oil industry many years ago, and they don't allow any outside private investment in their oil industry. Everything has to be developed by Pemex, the state oil company. There has been some discussion of the possibility that they might allow some outside investors to come in and help develop their natural gas supplies, and that's still being looked at.
It's a tough problem for the government of Mexico given the political history there. They do produce a lot of oil; we do import some oil from Mexico. They could do even more if they would encourage some of the private companies to come in and bring in their technology and their capital to invest. But they've always felt they want to retain national ownership of those assets and not allow anybody from outside to invest, and that's the way they operate.
SAVAGE: What about Libya, Iraq and Iran? I understand that you, Mr. Vice President, said that we need to lift or lighten sanctions with these nations in order to create a trade agreement for oil. Is that a good idea?
CHENEY: I have not specifically recommended that at this point. We've got a recommendation that we are looking at in the State Department that we should review the sanctions policy on Iran, Iraq and Libya. I think you have to look at each one of them differently.
Iraq is a special case. You have multilateral sanctions, which the international community generally supports. They are allowed to sell oil in order to purchase food and medical supplies for their people with Iran. There are currently sanctions in place that prohibit the investment by U.S. firms of significant sums of money in their oil industry, and Libya is also under sanctions because of their alleged involvement in Pan Am 103 back in 1988-89.
So each one of those has to be looked at in isolation. They're all oil producers, they're all selling on the international market, but the president has made it clear at this stage that he has no plans to lift the sanctions on any of those countries.
SAVAGE: Is there anything that I can do in California and the rest of the nation to educate the public with regard to our need to drill? I'm an ardent conservationist. I've spent years in the rain forests saving them, but for God's sake, there seems to be a disconnect between reality and fantasy when it comes to energy.
CHENEY: You do a lot just providing a forum where we can have a good discussion. We really need to have this debate. It's important for us to recognize what the trade-offs are, but also to recognize that if we put our minds to it and invest in the right way, there is no reason in the world why we can't protect our environment and make sure we have the energy we need for a healthy, robust economy.
SAVAGE: Mr. Vice President, thank you very much for joining us on the Savage Nation.
CHENEY: Thank you.
Mike Savage is America's fastest-growing nationally syndicated talk show host. Paul Revere Society: www.thepaulreveresociety.com
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