September online edition
Bush power to the rescue
You’ve heard about the
rolling blackouts in California, the debates about drilling in Alaska,
and the rising electricity bills. But somehow between Jay Leno’s jokes
about Bush’s new Energy Policy and a few news clips between Wimbledon
and the NBA Championships, you haven’t quite figured out what this
energy dispute is all about.
Don’t worry. You’re not
alone. The national debate on energy is a complicated one with demands
coming from all sides: demands for more energy, demands for cleaner air,
demands for an end to the rolling blackouts, demands for more energy
efficient cars and homes, etc.
And the entire issue is
made even more complicated by the fact that the U.S. has not addressed
the energy issue head-on with a unified public policy since the oil
crisis in the 1970s.
So, here’s where the
current story begins: During his second week in office, George W. Bush
established the National Energy Policy Development (NEPD) Group to
further investigate these energy concerns and create recommendations for
a new policy. Hence, the National Energy Policy, unveiled May 17, 2001.
The NEPD Group identified
the major national energy problem as the increasing gap between domestic
energy production and energy consumption. As population and energy
needs increase, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that over the
next 20 years, U.S. oil consumption will increase by 33%, natural gas
consumption by over 55%, and electricity consumption by 45%. They also
estimate that the current domestic energy production rates will not keep
pace with our energy needs.
According to the U.S.
Department of Energy, the U.S. is producing 39% less oil today than it
did in 1970. This production rate has created concerns over our reliance
on foreign oil. The Department of Energy estimates that in 20 years,
the U.S. will import 2 of every 3 barrels of oil.
Bush’s National Energy
Policy has taken a stab at addressing this energy gap based upon the
premise that energy production and environmental conservation do not
have to be mutually exclusive concerns.
Just in case you’ve been
busy studying for Organic Chemistry, writing your thesis, or just
catching up on reruns of Beverly Hills 90210, and haven’t exactly had
time to read the entire 170 pages that constitute the current Engery
Policy, I’ll give you a quick summary. (Of course, this is only a quick
summary. It does not include all of the initiatives set forth in the
The National Energy Policy
lists 5 goals: modernize conservation, modernize our energy
infrastructure, increase energy supplies, accelerate protection and
improvement of the environment, and increase energy security.
On the conservation end,
the policy proposes that the U.S. “promote further improvements in the
productive and efficient use of energy.” Among other initiatives, it
calls for increased energy conservation by government agencies,
increased funding for renewable energy and energy-efficient research,
and tax credits for purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles.
The policy’s phrase
“modernize our energy infrastructure” refers to our need to efficiently
transport energy from the source to the user. To achieve this end, one
of the items the policy recommends is that agencies be directed “to
improve pipeline safety and expedite pipeline permitting.”
The most controversial
element of Bush’s policy calls for both an increase in traditional
energy sources as well as alternative fuels. Some components of this
goal include opening a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge to fuel exploration, granting $1.2 billion to fund research into
alternative fuels, and providing $2 billion over the next 10 years to
research clean coal technology.
Some argue that Bush’s
energy policy with its emphasis on continued fossil fuel production
contributes to global warming. Critics also suggest that Bush is
promoting these production methods, because of his ties to oil and gas
more emphasis on alternative fuels and conservation efforts. They are
also opposed to drilling in Alaska and cite that drilling will disrupt
the wildlife living in that area.
In an attempt to address
some of these environmental concerns, the plan put forward by the NEPD
includes implementing new guidelines to reduce truck idling emissions,
giving royalties from clean oil and gas exploration to conservation
efforts, and increasing exports of U.S. environmentally friendly
Probably the least
contentious goal of the plan, increase energy security, emphasizes
providing assistance to low-income families and also to specific regions
in times of extreme weather.