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.)
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.