by Danielle Knight
|(IPS) WASHINGTON --
have assailed President George W. Bush's national energy strategy as "dirty and dangerous," as one slogan put it.
Bush unveiled the plan May 17. Drawn up by a task force led by Vice President Dick Cheney, the document's more environmentally controversial recommendations include the construction of 1,300 new coal-fired power plants; increased oil exploration, including in pristine wilderness areas; and reduced environmental regulations for the energy industry as a whole.
"If we fail to act, we could face a darker future, a future that is unfortunately being previewed in rising prices at the gas pump and rolling blackouts in California," Bush said.
Oil, gas and coal companies welcomed the recommendations. "We applaud the President and Vice President for their leadership and the comprehensive nature of their national energy strategy recommendations," the American Petroleum Institute, a lobby group of oil companies, said in a statement.
Environmentalists and some lawmakers, however, decried recommendations to drill for oil in pristine areas including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Bush had argued that the wilderness, tucked along Alaska's shore near the U.S.-Canadian border north of the Arctic Circle, could produce as much oil as the United States imports from Iraq.
Green groups also dismissed as token offerings, the plan's calls for tax incentives to promote conservation, renewable energy, and efficiency.
"It's a recipe for more drilling, more spilling, more asthma attacks, more nuclear waste, and more global warming," said Gene Karpinski, executive director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, which launched a series of television, radio and print advertisements attacking the plan.
Conservationists said that, instead of drilling under the Arctic refuge and other pristine places, more oil could be yielded by building cars and trucks that are more fuel-efficient.
If fuel economy standards for vehicles were raised to levels similar to Europe's and Japan's, "we can save three million barrels per day, more oil than we import from the Persian Gulf plus what we could get from the Arctic and offshore California combined," said Daniel Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global warming and energy program.
plan also drew fire for proposing that legally mandated pollution reduction targets be reviewed.
Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, said that such recommendations constituted a "sweeping attack" on public health and the environment.
"If (the current, targeted) cuts are not allowed to proceed as a result of the President's 'review', we can anticipate continued death, disease, and acid rain damage from sulfur emissions and more smog conditions," said Clapp.
Environmentalists also said that the plan's claim that 1,300 new electric power plants must be built over the next 20 years in order to meet energy demand, contradicted the government's own findings.
Advocacy groups pointed to a report last November by the Department of Energy, which concluded that energy efficiency and renewable power sources could offset 60 percent of the nation's need for new plants.
"Increasing reliance on energy efficiency and renewable energy sources would be the quickest, cleanest, and cheapest way to meet our energy needs," Daniel Lashof, science director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, declared today.
Conservationists further warned that the Bush strategy would exacerbate global warming by encouraging the burning of fossil fuels and consequent release of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
"Bush's energy scam marks the third strike against him on convincing the world he takes global warming seriously," said Kert Davies, coordinator of the global warming and energy campaign at Greenpeace and a staunch critic of the U.S. administration's withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
Tobias Muenchmeyer, a nuclear expert at Greenpeace, derided the plan for endorsing nuclear power. "The U.S. continues to struggle with storing 42,000 tons of existing spent nuclear fuel and has no plans on how to deal with future waste," he said.
Some environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, also saw the Bush plan -- which argues that its recommendations would create new jobs -- as an attempt to drive a wedge between them and their recently-found allies in the labor movement.
On May 14, the Bush administration invited officers of about a dozen labor unions to the White House for a confidential preview of the policy, in what was seen as an effort to drum up their support.
"We view this as a jobs opportunity," said Mike Mathis, the government affairs director for the Teamsters International, which along with Laborers International, has spoken out in favor of drilling in the Arctic refuge.
Other unions, however, have continued to stand with their environmentalist partners.
"What the administration has announced is not an energy policy but an energy rip-off by big oil companies and utilities," said Andrew L. Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union.
According to a recent study by the World Wildlife Fund, more jobs are to be had by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency than by encouraging more oil drilling.
May 21, 2001 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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