Power plays

Regarding your May 18 article "A supply- side plan for US energy": President Bush's energy policy can be summed up in three words: dirty, deadly, costly. We taxpayers now subsidize the gas, coal, and oil industries to the tune of $20 billion a year. We Americans spend over $100 billion on gasoline each year. We spend another $100 billion cleaning up the pollution.

In 1985, the Department of Energy reported that a 25-year research and development plan of renewable energy, combined with efficiency, could meet 100 percent of America's energy demands. Sixteen years have passed, and it's still oil, coal, and nuclear energy.

When one considers that the United States receives more energy in the form of sunlight in 40 minutes than it does from all the fossil fuels burned in a year, this administration's energy policy is a national scandal, orchestrated by campaign contributions. The energy industries (coal, oil, nuclear) threw their support behind candidates Bush and Cheney 9 to 1.

For every dollar going to subsidize coal, oil, or nuclear power, Congress should budget an equal dollar to subsidize research and development of clean, efficient, and less-costly energy. A recent Monitor poll showed that 49.5 percent of those Americans interviewed favored the development of new energy technology and sources. Only 27.1 percent of those polled favored producing more oil. That is heartening.

Flo Ann Norvell Mendocino, Calif.

The problem is not an "energy crisis," but a "deregulation crisis." Californians are being extorted by a privatized utility monopoly, which began with a piece of utility-lobbied legislation, A.B. 1890. This was doomed from inception, at least for consumers. What's worse is that it came as no surprise. As economist Dean Baker pointed out, this move was "an entirely predictable result to deregulation." And an analysis from the consumer-advocacy group Public Citizen says that Californians, under the proposed bailout plan, would continue to pad the profits of seven out-of-state corporations that control the wholesale market for electricity.

You are cheerleading for the wrong team.

Neal Tomblin Vista, Calif.

All parties can agree, given that California's electricity supply shortfall roughly equals the equivalent of 3 million homes' demand under normal conditions, more supply might indeed be in order. The question is whether that should be the principal long-term response, over conservation.

That the answer should be "yes" is obvious when one learns that conservation has long been the dominant long-term strategy for California. California has for two decades demanded more conservation than the rest of the country; Californians are now at the bottom of the ladder in terms of consumption. Their per capita usage is 6,396 kilowatts. The nation's average is 11,867 kilowatts, even with the large-and-low California bloc factored in. Yet California has the crisis.

Any intimation that a policy of more-of-the-same will somehow aid California, and keep the crisis from spreading elsewhere is not logical. As much as many hate to admit it, when supplies roughly equal demand, there are no such crises. When demand has been so dampened, yet such a dramatic shortfall exists, it may be helpful to reexamine policies aimed at strangling supply.

The unfortunate conventional wisdom remains that we are gluttonous for consuming "so much" energy. In fact, the better view is that we are prosperous because of affordable and reliable energy. The former cannot survive the latter, no matter how good it feels to feel guilty.

Christopher C. Horner Washington Competitive Enterprise Institute

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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