Bush National Energy Policy Expands Nuclear, Oil Drilling, Renewables

WASHINGTON, DC, May 17, 2001 (ENS) - The Bush administration's National Energy Policy Development Group headed by Vice President Dick Cheney issued a comprehensive plan today that puts environmental issues front and center.

The proposed policy would expand the role of nuclear power, open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration, limit toxic emissions from power plans and offer new tax incentives for the development of renewable energy.

President George W. Bush called the policy "a very optimistic look at America," after a presentation to the Cabinet Wednesday in Washington. "This isn't just a report that's going to gather dust," the President said, "this is an action plan."

Cabinet

The Bush Cabinet considers the new National Energy Policy. From left: EPA Administrator Christie Whitman, Education Secretary Rod Paige, Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Secretary of State Colin Powell, President George W. Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta (Photo courtesy the White House)
Two of the three basic principles on which the plan is based mention environmental concerns. The "comprehensive" and "long-term" policy will advance "new, environmentally friendly technologies to increase energy supplies and encourage cleaner, more efficient energy use."

"The Policy seeks to raise the living standards of the American people, recognizing that to do so our country must fully integrate its energy, environmental, and economic policies," the policy group says.

But there are few quick fixes promised. "Our energy crisis has been years in the making, and will take years to put fully behind us," the National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPD) predicts.

"To meet projected demand over the next two decades, America must have in place between 1,300 and 1,900 new electric plants," the policy group estimates.

Natural gas will fuel many of the new power plants, and the policy group gives nuclear power, which today supplies 20 percent of America's electricity, "an expanding part in our energy future."

Against the urging of most environmental groups in the United States, the NEPD Group recommends authorization of exploration and, if resources are discovered, development of the 1002 Area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. "Congress should require the use of the best available technology and should require that activities will result in no significant adverse impact to the surrounding Environment," the group said.

Legislation should be passed to "use an estimated $1.2 billion of bid bonuses from the environmentally responsible leasing of ANWR for funding research into alternative and renewable energy resources, including wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass," the group recommends.

The generation of electricity from fossil fuels should be cleaned up, the group said. Their plan recommends "mandatory reduction targets" for emissions of three main pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury.

Cheney

Vice President Dick Cheney heads the National Energy Policy Development Group (Photo courtesy the White House)
The group says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should work with Congress to propose legislation that would establish "a flexible, market based program to significantly reduce and cap emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury from electric power generators."

Reductions of these emissions should be phased in "over a reasonable period of time," the group said, comparing the plan to the successful acid rain reduction program established by the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act.

Under the plan, utilities would be able to make modifications to their plants without fear of new litigation. Financial incentives such as emissions trading credits would be established to help achieve the required reductions.

Such a program "with appropriate measures to address local concerns" would provide significant public health benefits even as we increase electricity supplies, the group said.

The group proposes the investment of $2 billion over 10 years to fund research in clean coal technologies, and supports a permanent extension of the existing research and development tax credit.

Plans to expand the production of energy from renewable sources such as biomass, wind, geothermal, and solar would include re-evaluation of access limitations to federal lands to site generating facilities.

The group recommends "appropriate funding of those renewable energy research and development programs that are performance based and are modeled as public-private partnerships."

New landfill methane projects would get a tax credit under the proposed policy, and ways would be found to reduce the delays in geothermal lease processing as part of the permitting review process.

The EPA administrator is advised to develop a new renewable energy partnership program to help companies more easily buy renewable energy, as well as receive recognition for the environmental benefits of their purchases.

A extensive public education program would promote consumer choice programs to "increase knowledge about the environmental benefits of purchasing renewable energy."

Tax credits for electricity produced using wind and biomass would be expanded.

Direct benefits for consumers include a temporary income tax credit available for the purchase of new hybrid or fuel-cell vehicles between 2002 and 2007, and a new 15 percent tax credit for residential solar energy property, up to a maximum credit of $2,000.

The EPA is advised to issue guidance to encourage the development of "well designed combined heat and power units," commonly called cogeneration units, that are highly efficient and have low emissions.

And the group recommends funding for research into "next-generation technology" including the use of hydrogen as a fuel and nuclear fusion.

The policy also expands the role of energy conservation and efficiency with an expansion of the government's Energy Star certification program and more money for weatherization upgrades to low income housing.

Cheney said, "Here we aim to continue a path of uninterrupted progress in many fields…New technologies are proving that we can save energy without sacrificing our standard of living. And we're going to encourage it in every way possible."

The NEPD Group recommends the passage of comprehensive electricity legislation that "promotes competition, protects consumers, enhances reliability, promotes renewable energy, improves efficiency, repeals the Public Utility Holding Company Act, and reforms the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act."

Meanwhile, until energy supplies are more plentiful, President Bush said he would work with Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to ensure that no price gouging is allowed.

"You know, we can't overcome the fact that we haven't built a refinery in years and we should have. We can make sure that any entity will not illegally overcharge. And so I'm calling on the FTC to make sure that nobody in America gets illegally overcharged. And we're going to make sure FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] will monitor electricity suppliers to make sure that they charge rates that are fair and reasonable." Bush said.