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Energy Plan Emphasize Production Bush*

Bush Energy Plan Will Emphasize Production

Cheney: Conservation Is Part of Effort

Vice President Cheney warned a Toronto audience Monday that U.S. energy woes could worsen unless fossil fuel and nuclear energy production were increased. (AP Photo)

By Mike Allen

Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, May 1, 2001; Page A01

TORONTO, April 30 -- Vice President Cheney said today that the Bush administration's energy policy will emphasize increased generation over conservation and rely on an ambitious expansion of the country's oil, coal and natural gas industries in addition to a broader reliance on nuclear power.

Providing a preview of the recommendations the administration's energy task force will make to President Bush in the next few weeks, Cheney said he sees no "quick fixes" to the problems that have led to rolling blackouts in California and forecasts of higher gasoline prices for motorists this summer.

"The potential crisis we face is largely the result of short-sighted domestic policies -- or, as in recent years, no policy at all," Cheney told editors and publishers at the Associated Press's annual meeting. "As a country, we have demanded more and more energy. But we have not brought online the supplies needed to meet that demand."

He said 1,300 to 1,900 new power plants will be needed over the next 20 years.

Cheney, who is heading the task force that has been meeting in private since January, provided few details of the panel's conclusions. He said it would recommend "a mix of new legislation, some executive action as well as private initiatives" to bolster energy production.

But he made clear that the administration will base its policy on promoting a vigorous expansion of the traditional energy industry and will avoid the kinds of austerity measures that marked the country's response to the energy crisis in the 1970s.

"To speak exclusively of conservation is to duck the tough issues," Cheney said. "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis -- all by itself -- for a sound, comprehensive energy policy."

Cheney said alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power may provide an important part of the country's energy strategy in the years to come but that it is premature to rely on them now. "Years down the road, alternative fuels may become a great deal more plentiful," he said. "But we are not yet in any position to stake our economy and our own way of life on that possibility."

Bush promised during last year's campaign to develop a muscular national energy strategy, and named Cheney to head the task force less than two weeks after taking office. Various sectors of the energy industry have billions of dollars riding on the outcome of the administration's policy review.

Cheney said the plan will call for increased exploration for new sources of oil, coal and natural gas, and construction of refineries, plants and pipelines. He reiterated the administration's support for drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which he said could be tapped for oil without disrupting its environment.

Cheney, who was chairman of the oil services firm Halliburton Co. before taking office, called coal "the most plentiful source of affordable energy in the country" and said it will remain the nation's primary source of electricity for years.

"Coal is not the cleanest source of energy," Cheney said, "and we must support efforts to improve clean-coal technology to soften its impact on the environment."

The vice president called nuclear power one of "the cleanest methods of power generation that we know."

"But the government has not granted a single new nuclear power permit in more than 20 years," Cheney said. "If we're serious about environmental protection, then we must seriously question the wisdom of backing away from what is, as a matter of record, a safe, clean and very plentiful energy source."

Officials with the coal and nuclear power industries, which have had little to celebrate in recent years, welcomed Cheney's remarks.

"Bless his heart," said Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association. "We have been something of the whipping child for some time now. This is kind of like your dad when he compliments you when you were growing up. We've got people in Washington talking to us now."

Steve Kerekes, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, said it was "heartening to see that the administration is not only recognizing but publicly acknowledging the positive role that nuclear energy plays in a diverse portfolio of energy sources."

Several environmental groups said the policy outlined by Cheney could negate whatever good will the administration had gained with its recent spate of environmentally friendly announcements. Philip E. Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, called Cheney's prescription "an across-the-board attack on the environment."

Lois Corbett, executive director of the Toronto Energy Alliance, said: "I'd hate to think we'll have to throw up a huge iron curtain to keep American smog and acid rain on the American side. Clean-coal technology is an oxymoron. It's a dirty fuel."

Raney and other coal industry officials were summoned to an administration briefing last week in which Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and other administration officials promised that coal would be a key part of the energy policy.

Attendees said that although no specifics were discussed about tax breaks or relaxed regulations, they were assured the administration would work for a more stable and predictable process of getting permits to build or renovate coal-fired generating plants.

Administration officials said Bush's budget includes $150 million for developing clean-coal technology, new methods for converting coal to energy that result in less pollution. Cheney called conservation "an important part of the total effort."

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