NRDC Hits Cheney Speech On Energy

Calls Vice President's Approach the 'Pollution Solution'

WASHINGTON (April 30, 2001) - Today's speech by Vice President Cheney offered more of the same, misguided arguments about U.S. energy policy, according to experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Not surprisingly, Mr. Cheney emphasized the need for more domestic oil, gas and coal supply, but gave short shrift to dampening demand through energy efficiency or increasing our reliance on renewable energy sources.

"His solution to increase America's reliance on fossil fuels is the pollution solution," said David Doniger, an NRDC senior attorney and former head of the Environmental Protection Agency's office on climate change. "The fact is we can meet our energy needs -- and save consumers money -- without despoiling pristine wilderness areas or rolling back environmental protections."

For example, NRDC's report "A Responsible Energy Policy for the 21st Century" found that increasing average fuel economy for cars and light trucks to 39 miles per gallon would save at least 15 times more oil that could be economically recovered from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain over the 50-year lifespan of the oil fields there. It would also save drivers billions of dollars a year at the gas pump.

Cheney talked about subsidizing "clean coal" technology. "When it comes to global warming, clean coal is a contradiction in terms," said Doniger. "There is no technology today to clean up the carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal, so increasing our dependence on coal means making the global warming problem worse."

Nuclear power is not the answer to our energy needs, either, said NRDC. Cheney complained that the "government has not granted a single new nuclear power permit in more than 20 years." That's because no utility has requested a permit to build a nuclear plant over that time. Why? Nuclear power does not make economic sense. It is not cost-effective, and Cheney did not address the problem of nuclear waste, among other major issues that make nuclear power an unattractive option.

Finally, Cheney warned that, without a "clear, coherent energy strategy," California's electricity woes may foreshadow the future for the rest of the country. In fact, the problems in California are a product of its uniquely flawed deregulation scheme. They are not due to clean air regulations, as utility executives have testified, or the lack of domestic oil, given that less than 1 percent of the electricity generated for California comes from oil-fired power plants.

"Scaremongering about California is not a responsible way to talk about U.S. energy needs," said Doniger. "We can meet our energy needs and protect the environment at the same time, but not with what Mr. Cheney proposes."