Energy 105

With 105 recommendations, President Bush's energy plan would take the US quickly down two paths: producing more energy, and using less of it. (See story, page 1.)

Under past presidents, those two approaches often collided as advocates for both sides sought the upper hand in Washington for money, tax credits, and eased regulation.

Democrats, too, feel some urgency to tackle the nation's energy problems and released their recommendations yesterday, leaning more toward conservation and renewable energy. (See related column, next page.)

Like his proposals on education and tax cuts, Mr. Bush will likely bend on those portions of his plan that must go before Congress. This former oil man has already come a long way from his production-first thinking. Forty-two of his proposals address conservation and "new" energies.

He's already anticipated some deal-cutting by offering to commit some oil royalties to land conservation and more energy aid to the poor.

But some of Bush's ideas raise red flags. Recycling spent uranium into plutonium just adds to safety questions about nuclear power and doesn't set an example for global efforts to reduce such bomb-grade material. Drilling for oil in the Arctic refuge first needs proof it won't upset the area's unique natural balance. And taking away the states' authority over power lines to create a national grid upsets the federal-state power balance.

Like most Americans, Bush's plan is conflicted over how much the market and how much government should control energy supplies and push for more efficiency. Are SUV buyers begging to pay more for a vehicle with higher better gas mileage - or should government just order it? Even Bush postponed his choice.

Against a summer backdrop of $2 gasoline prices and rolling blackouts, Bush will need to bipartisan his plan into reality, recognizing the divisions among Americans between consuming more and consuming less.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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