ACHRNEWS

Reenergizing the United States

May 24, 2001


Unlike the Energizer Bunny, our nation’s economy won’t keep going and going unless we can solve our energy problems, regionally and nationally. President George W. Bush has now rolled out a national energy policy that the administration hopes will keep the U.S. energized well into the future.

The new energy plan, which was developed by the president’s National Energy Policy Development Group headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, was introduced by Bush in a recent address at the River Centre Convention Center in St. Paul, MN.

“The plan addresses all three key aspects of the energy equation: demand, supply, and the means to match them,” said Bush.

“First, it reduces demand by promoting innovation and technology to make us the world leader in efficiency and conservation.

“Second, it expands and diversifies America’s supply of all sources of energy — oil and gas, clean coal, solar, wind, biomass, hydropower, and other renewables, as well as safe and clean nuclear power.

“Third, and finally, the report outlines the ways to bring producers and consumers together, by modernizing the networks of pipes and wires that link the power plant to the outlet on the wall.”

Urging action on his plan, Bush noted, “For two decades, the share of the average family budget spent on energy steadily declined. But since 1998, it has skyrocketed by 25 percent.” He added, “If we fail to act, Americans will face more and more widespread blackouts. If we fail to act, our country will become more reliant on foreign crude oil, putting our national energy security into the hands of foreign nations.”



Energy Recommendations

The report includes over 100 recommendations on how to improve the country’s energy future. They include:

  • Proposing comprehensive electricity legislation to promote competition and increase reliability, and encourage investment in transmission facilities.
  • Providing tax breaks for clean coal technologies, since coal is used to generate a majority of the country’s electricity.
  • Supporting the expansion of nuclear energy.
  • Finding a permanent deep geologic repository for nuclear waste.
  • Expediting hydroelectric licensing, and optimizing the efficiency and reliability of existing hydroelectric facilities.
  • Removing constraints on the interstate electric transmission grid.
  • Allowing more oil and natural gas development on public lands. And, specifically, allowing drilling on part of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR).
  • Providing tax credits for renewable energy, such as biomass and wind power.
  • Directing federal agencies to conserve energy at their facilities, especially during periods of peak demand.
  • Expanding the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Energy Star program to also include retail buildings, schools, health care facilities, and homes. Extending Energy Star labeling to additional appliances.
  • Strengthening DOE public education programs relating to energy efficiency.
  • Supplying a tax incentive and streamlining permitting for the development of combined heat and power (CHP) technology.
  • Providing an income tax credit for those who buy hybrid (gas and electric) vehicles.
  • Strengthening the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
  • Increasing funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program.


  • Electrifying Development

    As California’s difficulties attest, electricity is a key need. “America needs to generate more electricity,” said Bush. “The Department of Energy estimates that America will need between 1,300 and 1,900 new power plants over the next two decades. A high-tech economy is a high-electricity consumption economy.”

    The president pressed for greater development of nuclear energy to generate electricity. “America should also expand a clean and unlimited source of energy — nuclear power.… But the last American nuclear power plant to enter operation was ordered in 1973.”

    He also called for development of a national electrical grid. “We have chopped our country into dozens of local electricity markets, which are haphazardly connected to one another.… It is time to match your interstate highway and phone systems with an interstate electrical grid.”

    Regarding drilling for oil in the ANWR site in Alaska, Bush said that it “can produce 600,000 barrels of oil a day for the next 40 years,” noting “that happens to be exactly the amount we import from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.”



    Sidebar: Reactions to Bush’s Energy Plan

    Public opinion appears to support much of the energy plan. According to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll, investing in new power plants is favored by 83%. Investing in more electric transmission lines is endorsed by 69%. Drilling for natural gas on federal lands is supported by 63%. Nuclear power, however, is just narrowly supported by a margin of 48% to 44%.

    Mandating more energy-efficient appliances, including air conditioners and water heaters, is favored by 87%. Requiring more energy-efficient new buildings is backed by 86%.

    Opening the ANWR to oil exploration, on the other hand, is opposed by 57% of the respondents. This issue is also generating strong opposition from environmentalists and Democrats.

    National environmental groups quickly spoke out against the energy plan. David Nemtzow, president of Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), said, “This plan is imbalanced — it provides lip service to energy efficiency and saves all its heavy lifting for increasing energy supplies. Their primary response is dig more, mine more, and build more. They should also say, ‘Waste less.’”

    “The Bush-Cheney energy plan contains relatively few concrete proposals that will save energy,” stated Howard Geller, former executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). “President Bush has missed a golden opportunity to advance America’s cleanest, cheapest, fastest, and least controversial energy source — namely increasing energy efficiency.”

    Former President Jimmy Carter accused Bush of overstating the nation’s energy problems. Writing in the Dallas Morning News, he attested, “Exaggerated claims seem designed to promote some long-frustrated ambitions of the oil industry at the expense of environmental quality.”

    BUSINESS VIEW

    The United States Combined Heat and Power Association (USCHPA) is happy that the new energy policy features initiatives supporting its technology, but noted that it is absent industry-sought details and commitments. “I’m heartened that the Cheney team understands that CHP will be an increasingly more powerful technology to help the U.S. meet its energy needs,” said John Jimison, executive director of the association.

    American Gas Cooling Center (AGCC) executive director Anthony J. Occhionero commended the acknowledgement of the benefits of CHP, but said he is disappointed at the lack of initiatives to promote distributed energy resources (DER), particularly in view of Bush’s emphasis on a diversified energy mix.

    “Distributed energy technologies such as natural gas cooling and on-site power generation are resource-efficient, environmentally sound, and readily available technologies that free up existing electric generation, transmission, and distribution facilities, and delay or obviate altogether the need to construct new facilities,” Occhionero said.

    “The Bush administration energy plan totally fails to recognize the key role of energy efficiency in meeting short- and long-term energy and environmental needs,” asserted Terry E. Singer, executive director of the National Association of Energy Service Companies (NAESCO). She added that the plan “throws money at drillers and producers while providing only the most de minimus incentives to implement energy-efficient technologies.”

    The best hopes for achieving more energy conservation in the home lie in voluntary, consumer-oriented, market-driven programs and technological advances that conserve energy without adding costs for new home buyers, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) stated.

    “Homes built today are 100 percent more energy efficient than homes built in the 1970s because of two factors: voluntary programs that make it easy for builders to promote conservation to home buyers, and new housing-construction materials that help save on energy use,” Bruce Smith, president of NAHB and a Walnut Creek, CA, home builder, said. “We hope President Bush will help new home buyers and homeowners by expanding these kinds of market- and technology-driven initiatives to encourage maximum energy efficiency at minimum costs.”

    John Herzog, staff vice president, Public Policy Department, Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), remarked that hvac systems must be maintained or their efficiency will drop. “We have been in contact with the governor’s office in California in terms of an educational campaign to alert people to the need to get their systems checked.” With so many systems operating inefficiently, “If they had their systems corrected, they may be able to reduce the energy load sufficiently to avoid the expected shortage of 10 percent this summer.”

    In fact, according to the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE), up to 50% more energy can be saved with proper installation, sizing, and maintenance of commercial central air conditioners and heat pumps. “Although the CEE study did not measure residential systems, a compelling case can be made that proper maintenance can save homeowners up to 50 percent as well,” said Larry Taylor, president of ACCA as well as president of Air Rite A/C Co., Inc, Fort Worth, TX.

    John McNerney, executive director, Government & Labor Relations, for the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA), commented, “Our members see [the energy plan] as a big market opportunity across all markets. If enacted anywhere near as proposed, it’s going to be a boon for work for years to come.”

    Regarding environmental opposition, he noted, “There is sound technology and science to make the development of adequate energy supplies as safe and as environmentally benign as it can be.”

    GROWTH REQUIRES ENERGY Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) president Clifford H. “Ted” Rees Jr., stated, “The Bush Administration plan recognizes a simple fact that too many of its critics want to ignore: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of America will grow by one-fifth over the next 25 years. To be a great country competing in a global economy we must have more of everything that uses energy to serve a population approaching 340 million people.

    “The Bush plan seeks to provide a balance between conservation and production to keep energy affordable while it increases infrastructure from transmission lines, power plants, and refining capacity to renewable resources like wind turbines and solar power.

    “With conservation and adequate production, we can avoid energy price spikes, blackouts, and the economic costs that result from too much demand and too little supply of energy.”

    Can the U.S. regain the power to maintain a high-powered economy? The energy debate has heated up and action awaits.

    Publication date: 05/28/2001