After Hi-Tech War, We Need a Hi-Tech Approach to Energy

ON the day after the Bush administration announced its new energy policy, I looked for the report of it in that newspaper of record, the New York Times. I looked and looked. I finally found the story back in the ``D'' section amid the financial news. That about sums up the interest of press, public, and the White House in an issue that will be with us long after the Gulf war is over, and which is directly connected with our involvement in the Gulf in the first place.

The world's oil will ultimately run out. Until then, how we get it, where we get it, and what we will pay for it are of paramount importance.

But the White House energy policy did not make the front pages. It did not distract the public from its pursuit of the war on television. Nor was there much of a boost for it from the White House.

Oil may not be the only reason America is fighting a war in the Middle East, but it is certainly one of the reasons. It would be too bad if, after our third crisis over oil in 20 years, we lapse back into complacency, guzzling cheap post-war oil with little thought for the future.

One of the lessons of the Gulf war has been the brilliant triumph of American technology. One of the consequences of the peace ought to be the application of this technological brilliance to improving mankind's lot.

Cutting back the environmental despoliation of our globe, and using its resources more efficiently, are clearly goals of some urgency.

With the end of the Gulf war in sight, there is a lot of discussion about the political arrangements that will take place in the Middle East.

Just as pressing for Americans should be a national energy policy at home that would intelligently redirect priorities and make them wiser users of resources that are not infinite.

Germans and Japanese, for instance, enjoy living standards as high, or higher, than that of Americans but in so doing use about half the amount of energy.

If we beat the swords of war into the plowshares of peace, it ought not to be difficult to combine technological know-how with political will and transform America into a more efficient energy-user without any loss of living standards.

The energy policy the Bush administration has just unveiled accents increased production of oil at home. What is also needed is more innovative thinking in the area of conservation.

It is not going to be easy to change the habits of many Americans. But financial incentives are persuasive.

Americans can be persuaded of the virtue of smaller cars, with more efficient engines, that save money for their owners. There are alternative fuels to gasoline. Experimental cars already run on natural gas and power from electric batteries.

For home heating there is still much to be done with solar energy. For industrial energy there is much potential in wind-power in some regions.

Although the environmentalists and others have hobbled the development of new nuclear power stations in the United States, countries like France have developed safe and efficient nuclear power and there is no reason why the United States cannot as well.

The energy strategy the president has sent to Congress will be debated, dissected, and probably undergo much change before it is enacted as law. That affords a great opportunity for improvement.

This is a time for the United States to make dramatic changes in its use, and conservation, of energy.

The sacrifices the United States has had to made in fighting the Gulf war should drive home the necessity for a sounder energy policy at home.

The successful conclusion of the war also offers President Bush a platform to galvanize and motivate Americans in peace as successfully as he was able to in war.

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