Yesterday President Bush unveiled his long awaited energy policy calling on the nation to "modernize conservation, modernize our energy infrastructure, increase energy supplies, accelerate the protection and improvement of the environment, and increase our nation's energy security." On the surface, these are important goals, but getting there takes more than words.
We're concerned that most of the energy in the president's plan is devoted to initiatives that will benefit the long-term needs of the oil industry, rather than putting sufficient funding behind cleaner-burning coal technology and alternative energy development. With the deleterious effects on the U.S. economy of higher gasoline prices and the crisis in California, an energy policy that does not address short-term problems is only a partial report.
Rather than putting so much attention on drilling for oil and natural gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- which the majority of Americans oppose -- the administration should be looking more closely at ways to use the energy resources that require no new exploration and disturb no environmentally sensitive lands.
Good for Ohio: Expanding coal-mining operations in Ohio, for example, would not only increase the nation's energy supply -- most electricity is produced at coal-fired plants -- but it could be an economic boon for southern Ohio counties.
The problem with Ohio coal is that it has a high-sulfur content, which when burned releases a significant volume of pollutants into the atmosphere. As a result, Ohio power plants have had to install scrubbers to reduce the pollution, but much more needs to be done to make high-sulfur coal safer.
The president's plan calls for investing $2 billion over 10 years for research in clean coal technology -- about $200 million a year. But a Department of Energy spokesman told The Vindicator that the president's budget already called for a $150 million expenditure for clean-coal research. In other words, despite coal's potential and comparatively easy accessibility, the energy policy task force is suggesting spending only $50 million more on a technology that would provide billions of dollars in benefits to the nation.
We think this is particularly short-sighted. But obviously coal miners don't have the same clout in Washington as oil industry executives.
Economic concerns: Bush's drill-we-must philosophy will certainly not address the nation's current needs, nor does reliance on the pie-in-the-sky potential of a deregulated energy market -- as Californians and Ohioans have discover each time a gas or electricity bill is delivered.
California's economy is greater than that of most of the world's nations and contributes a significant share to this nation's economy. An economic downtown in California brought on by energy costs and distribution problems can only be bad for America. Any energy plan must deal with that concern now.