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Opinion Column
For the week of May 9 through May 15, 2001

Conservation vs. deceit about ‘energy crisis’

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Is it naive to ask why is it that given the chance, the Bush-Cheney White House will scoff at the environment and find ways to roll back protections of Mother Earth?

Look at the record of just 100 days.

President Bush broke his campaign promise to impose tougher carbon dioxide emission controls.

Had it not been for furor among Republicans, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney would’ve abrogated testing for salmonella in school lunches and tougher standards for arsenic in drinking water.

Bush and Cheney abandoned the Kyoto Treaty on global warming, saying it was impractical. Impractical? The outer space missile defense shield has been called impractical, too, but Bush-Cheney forge briskly ahead with that scheme.

Bush and Cheney are crippling the Endangered Species Act by stripping the Interior Department of funds to enforce court rulings.

And to legitimatize air and water pollution, Bush and Cheney declared a national "energy crisis" and called for waiving pollution standards to allow speedy construction of some 1,300 more power plants, digging up more coal and drilling for more oil.

And as a further rebuke, Bush and Cheney have essentially pooh-poohed energy conservation as a sensible and profitable goal.

(I ascribe all this to "Bush and Cheney" since credible evidence suggests that Bush, known for light thinking, merely follows policies crafted by Cheney.)

Cynics can be excused for suspecting that Bush and Cheney, both onetime oil men, are concocting ways for handing corporate cronies in energy new riches in the guise of serving America’s energy needs.

Yet, because of overwhelming public support of environmental concerns, conservation is a U.S. ethic ¾ among other accomplishments, autos now average 20 mpg; urban air and water quality has been improved dramatically; household appliances require less energy; use of recycled newsprint for newspapers is soaring.

A study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory concludes that the federal government, the country’s largest energy user with 500,000 buildings, could save $1 billion a year in energy costs by investing $5.2 billion up front on energy-saving programs.

At Fort Polk, La., as an example, electricity during peak hours reportedly fell 43 percent after new fluorescent lights and low-flow showerheads were installed and geothermal heat pumps took over heating and cooling.

An example Bush and Cheney should understand: the huge petroleum firm, Chevron, estimates savings of $100 million in energy costs by unplugging from a Texas electricity grid and recycling waste heat from its refinery into a generator.

Studies by several laboratories also conclude that energy demand could be cut between 20 percent and 47 percent through government research and incentives to use new technologies, thereby reducing by up to half the Bush and Cheney demand for 1,300 new power plants.

As a final rebuke to their disdain of conservation, The New York Times reports that President Bush has installed an energy-saving heat pump system at his new Texas ranch and Vice President Cheney’s official residence, the Naval Observatory, also uses heat pumps.

But neither has mentioned the energy conservation devices in their homes as models of what can be done. Acknowledging the importance of conservation might expose Bush and Cheney deceit about the "energy crisis."



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