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30 May 2001

George W Bush’s national energy wasn’t just good news for the nuclear industry. Having said no to Kyoto (see NEI April 2001, p3), president Bush’s vision contains a dramatic increase in the number of oil rigs and fossil fuel power stations. The plan predicts that up to 1900 new power plants over the next 20 years will be needed to cope with the projected energy increase of a third.

Bush said that regulations governing coal mining and licensing of new nuclear plants would be relaxed and streamlined. A national electricity grid will replace the outdated system of local networks blamed for the California blackouts.

The federal government is to be given powers to requisition land for constructing power transmission cables and natural gas pipelines.

To move away from dependency on foreign oil, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should be tapped for energy exploration. The refuge should produce up to 600,000 barrels of oil a day. Bush claimed that it was possible to significantly increase oil drilling and coal mining without serious damage to the environment.

There were some concessions to the environmental lobby. The energy report calls for tax credits to encourage biomass, wind energy and the purchase of solar panels. But critics argue that the focus on traditional energy sources will give the rest of the world a competitive edge in developing alternative sources.

Predictably, environmentalists are outraged. Kate Hampton, campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “This is payback day for George Bush’s political backers in the US oil industry. Instead of seriously trying to tackle the waste of energy by the world’s most profligate economy, the Cheney energy strategy simply gives a green light for ever faster consumption of fossil fuels and greater use of nuclear power.” The Democrats dismissed the plan in a similar fashion. The party’s national chairman, Terry McAuliffe commented: “It’s very unfortunate, we now have an administration that is more concerned about big oil companies making record profits than worrying about average American working families.”

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