Environmental News: Media Center

Main page | Archive

Press Release

March 2005
Press contact: Rob Perks, 202-289-2420
If you are not a member of the press, please write to us at nrdcinfo@nrdc.org or see our contact page.


Just as in George Orwell's book, "1984" -- when black was white and war meant peace -- the Bush administration wants people to believe that its environmental policies promise the opposite of what they promote. Think "Healthy Forests" or "Clear Skies." Energy policy appears to be the latest euphemistic enterprise for this administration.

When Congress returns from Easter recess, debate will turn once again to the energy bill. The House is expected to quickly pass yet another version of the same old industry-backed legislation that is mired in controversy. Modeled on the energy formula crafted by Vice President Cheney's secret energy task force, the bill gives short shrift to clean, energy-efficient and renewable technologies in favor of heavy subsidies to the oil, coal and nuclear industries.

While the plan hasn't changed, President Bush's language when talking about energy policy has shifted abruptly. In a recent speech in Columbus, Ohio, President Bush offered a noticeably kinder and gentler spin on energy policy, emphasizing conservation and environmentally responsibility.

Don't be fooled.

The president's remarks mirror a new script penned by Republican pollster and self-described wordsmith Frank Luntz, who has warned the party that failure to change its language on energy could spur a political backlash from a public that opposes the weakening of environmental safeguards. Bush's speech in Ohio bears striking similarity to the linguistic counsel offered by Luntz in a January 2005 memo that was leaked to the public. What follows is a side-by-side comparison of Luntz's "Eight Energy Communication Guidelines for 2005" and a transcript of Bush's remarks in Ohio on March 9. (Emphasis added by NRDC.)

1) A threat to America's energy security is a threat to national security. Our "dependence" on OPEC and foreign oil…makes us dependent on countries that are hostile to America and American interests.

The greater America's dependence on foreign energy, the greater the threat to American national security. This is the single most important communication recommendation.
"We now import more than half our oil from abroad…I believe that creates a national security issue and an economic security issue for the United States."

"If you want to become less dependent on foreign sources of energy, you need to find more energy here."
2) Articulate the need to move toward American energy independence and energy self-sufficiency. It is the optimistic, hopeful flip-side to the national security argument. "No doubt in my mind, we can become less dependent on foreign sources of energy."
3) We need to take a balanced approach to solving our energy needs through diversity of supply. These two principles are closely linked and crucial to demonstrating that your approach is both long-term and comprehensive. "To ensure diversity of supply, we need to promote safe, clean nuclear power ... because a secure energy future must include nuclear power."
4) Reject talk about "choosing between more energy and a cleaner environment." Assert clearly that "we have to do both."

The key principle is "responsible energy exploration." And remember, it's NOT drilling for oil. It's responsible energy exploration.
"Too many people in Washington and around our country seem to think we have to pick between energy production and environmental protection, between environmental protection and growing our economy. I think that's a false choice."

"To produce more energy at home, we need to open up new areas to environmentally responsible exploration for oil and natural gas, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- that's called ANWR."
5) Innovation and 21st Century technology should be at the core of your energy policy ... The following soundbite works best: "We have the best scientists, the best engineers and best technicians in the world. It's time to put them to work to develop a 21st century energy program that leads America towards energy independence and self-sufficiency." "There's no doubt in my mind, we can lead better lives through the use of new innovative technology."

"[W]hy don't we just put our minds to it, to use our skills and our talents to come up with innovative ways to deal with the energy challenges of today and tomorrow."
6) Stress alternatives that are clean, efficient, and affordable. Alternative sources of energy aren't really viable unless they meet these criteria. Stress that increasing energy supplies MUST be done by "using energy more cleanly and efficiently and ultimately making it more affordable." "The third objective of a sound energy bill is to diversify our energy supply by developing alternative sources of energy."
7) There is an important role for conservation. Whether through technology that allows products to burn energy more efficiently to an effort to get Americans to be more careful when and how they use energy, we do want conservation to play a role in our energy future. Any policy without conservation will fail the public opinion test. "The first objective of a sound energy bill is to encourage the use of technology to improve energy conservation ... The more we conserve, the less we use; the less we use, the less dependent we are on foreign sources of energy…American needs to be the world leader when it comes to energy conservation."
8) We need to say yes to a comprehensive, common sense energy policy for the 21st Century.

It's time to hold accountable those who refuse to accept the energy needs and the energy opportunities facing America now and in the future.
"To meet America's energy needs in the 21st century, we need a comprehensive national energy policy."

"[W]hy don't we just put our minds to it, to use our skills and our talents to come up with innovative ways to deal with the energy challenges of today and tomorrow."

Trading Rhetoric for Reality

Luntz claims that his job is "to make honest political rhetoric that achieves worthy goals, to level the linguistic playing field and to inform Americans of the true nature of our policy debates." (See LA Times article.) George Orwell put it a bit differently. "Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful," he said, "and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind." In any case, what Luntz offers is soundbites, not solutions. Likewise, President Bush is talking the talk on energy but he's not walking the walk.

Per Luntz's advice, Bush decries our nation's dependence on foreign oil, yet continues to push a national energy policy that would have only minimal impact on oil production, consumption and imports. With skyrocketing demand and limited domestic supply, the Energy Department's own Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects even greater dependence on imported oil over the coming years. (Click here for the report.)

Bush also promotes nuclear power as a way to diversify energy supplies even though nuclear energy will not significantly decrease oil dependence. Nuclear power plants produce electricity -- and electricity production accounts for just 3 percent of total U.S. oil consumption. Automobiles, not electricity, are the single largest driver of oil consumption in this country. (See the Annual Energy Review.)

Bush touts drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a quick fix to the nation's energy needs. However, any oil drilled there would take a decade or more to reach consumers, wouldn't lower gas prices and wouldn't make a significant dent in reducing our oil imports. (See the analysis.)

Bush boasts about his commitment to conserving energy, yet his own vice-president has derided conservation as a virtue, not a necessity. Even though America could save 2.5 million barrels of oil every day over the next 10 years using existing fuel-efficiency technologies, Bush's favored energy policies largely ignore energy savings strategies. (Click here for more information.)

Finally, the reality is that the energy bill Bush supports would do little or nothing to help America achieve energy independence. For real solutions, see NRDC's plan.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 1 million members and online activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Related Press Materials
Frank Luntz's Energy Memo, (912k pdf)
Bush's Energy Speech, (84k pdf)

Get Updates and Alerts

See the latest issue >

NRDC Gets Top Ratings from the Charity Watchdogs

Charity Navigator awards NRDC its 4-star top rating.
Worth magazine named NRDC one of America's 100 best charities.
NRDC meets the highest standards of the Wise Giving Alliance of the Better Business Bureau.

Donate now >

Share | |