The Strengths of Bush's Energy Plan

I READ with interest the various commentaries on the National Energy Strategy in the Monitor in recent weeks. Most focused on a single favored energy solution - mandated conservation, higher corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, increased gasoline taxes - and protested that the strategy did not go far enough in supporting that favorite answer to the nation's energy needs. Yet amid all the criticisms, there is a consensus on the goals of national energy policy. Virtually all agree that we must begin to reduce our vulnerability to oil market disruptions, increase conservation and energy efficiency, bring alternative transportation fuels and technologies into the marketplace, and improve the quality of our environment.

The National Energy Strategy will do all of this and more - but not through heavy-handed command and control measures. The NES proposes no new taxes, no arbitrary increases in CAFE standards, no dubious environmental targets. Instead, the NES relies on technological innovation and market forces to achieve our energy and environmental objectives. It proposes elimination of regulatory inefficiencies, increased market competition, and focused, collaborative research to spur commercialization of new technol ogies and fuels.

The root cause of our energy dependence is not profligate energy use by the American people, but rather failure to make sensible, environmentally responsible use of the vast energy resources we have. Decades of legislative and regulatory decisions, made piecemeal at every level of government, have compromised domestic oil production, natural gas development and delivery, nuclear generation of electricity, coal use, and even hydroelectric power. By removing excessive regulatory barriers, we can increase production and competition among domestic energy sources, expand consumer choices while reducing costs, and do without substantial amounts of imported oil. The Department of

Energy estimates that government regulations are depressing natural gas consumption by 1 trillion cubic feet a year. With reform, natural gas could replace up to 400,000 barrels of oil a day and save residential consumers as much as $1 billion in 2010.

Nuclear power faces an even more restrictive regulatory regime. Today it is virtually impossible for this clean energy source to be placed in service. Yet with standardized reactor design, streamlined licensing procedures, and effective waste minimization and management programs, nuclear power production could increase by 10 percent over present levels by 2010.

Regulatory reform can also encourage greater use of renewable energy. Removing statutory restrictions on the size and fuels used in renewable power plants and reforming the hydropower licensing process are just two examples of steps we can take now to expand renewable energy production.

The NES supports aggressive actions to bring advanced transportation fuels and technologies into the marketplace. The federal government will take the lead in developing a market for alternative fuel vehicles by converting its own fleet to clean fuels, and by requiring private fleets to purchase alternative fuel vehicles. Substantial fleet vehicle purchases will create market incentives for auto manufacturers and broaden transportation choices for all Americans. By the end of the decade, these measures, coupled with provisions in the Clean Air Act, could put some 23 million alternative fuel vehicles on the road.

For the longer-term, the NES proposes to invest $3.5 billion over the next five years in collaborative R&D programs among government, industry, and university researchers to develop new technologies and fuels. These include advanced transportation fuels from biomass, a practical electric vehicle battery, vehicle propulsion technologies, highly efficient aeronautical and industrial technologies, and magnetic levitation trains.

This commitment to energy research and development reflects both a traditional and innovative answer to America's energy challenges. Technology has always been the solution to America's needs and the source of our competitive edge in world markets.

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