Bush's Rose Garden Energy Plan: Deja Vu All Over Again

For the second time in two weeks, President Bush returned to the Rose Garden to offer outdated ideas on how to manage America’s energy crisis. On April 16, he trotted out a plan for tackling global warming that was weaker than his campaign promise back in 2000. Yesterday, he suggested that we could lower energy prices by 1) resurrecting a plan to drill the pristine National Artic Wildlife Refuge that dates back to the disgraced Cheney Energy Task Force from 2001 and 2) offering more tax dollars to an industry that hasn’t been cutting edge since World War II: nuclear power.


I do agree with the president on one thing: we do need to address our energy needs. But I know there are better solutions out there. The best way to lower gas prices is to apply American ingenuity to making and marketing fuel-efficient and alternative-fuel vehicles. We can do this and transform our energy future, curb global warming, and stimulate the economy all at the same time. See the NRDC Action Fund ad running in USA Today for a brief look at how this can work.


But it would help if instead of blaming Congress for high prices, President Bush would stop threatening to veto the renewable energy tax credit, a program that has proven to bring clean energy prices down. (See Tom Friedman’s crisp analysis of this program in today's New York Times, and my own blog post about how a similar one has helped Germany’s green energy market boom.)


While Bush finds himself stuck in the past, I have traveled the country and talked with the clean technology innovators in the Silicon Valley, visited the wind farms off the shores of Europe, and met with the big box retailers like Wal-Mart that want to put affordable energy efficiency lighting and appliances into the hands of American consumers. That is what the future looks like. And it is starting to happen now.


Maybe someone should call President Bush to the Rose Garden to tell him the news.


Because yesterday’s Rose Garden performance revealed not only that this administration is bereft of new policy solutions. The policies it does offer--or dust off--have already become proven failures.


Over the past eight years, I have helped lead the fight to block drilling for oil in the Arctic Refuge, and each time we have been successful. Why? Because Congress and the American people have concluded that trading the crown jewel of our wilderness heritage for a few drops of oil isn’t worth it.


  • There is less than a year’s supply of oil in the refuge, and it would take 10 years to access it.


  • Increasing fuel efficiency standards for new vehicles to 40 miles per gallon would save more than 10 times the likely yield of oil from the Arctic Refuge. And we would get to keep the wild rivers, caribou birthing grounds, and stunning scenery in the bargain.


In his press conference yesterday, Bush implied the subsidizing the nuclear power industry--in addition to the more than $150 billion it has already received in the past 60 years--would somehow lead to lower energy costs. But his numbers don’t add up.


  • A pair of Florida utilities in recently forecast new reactor construction costs ranging of $6 billion to $12 billion per unit. This suggests electricity costs between 14 and 18 cents per kilowatt hour.


  • That’s higher than renewables like wind and even some large solar projects, and about four times the cost getting that power through proven energy efficiency programs.