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Bush Energy Plan Subsidises Big Oil Allies

BETWEEN THE LINES Q&A
from the nationally syndicated radio newsmagazine "Between The Lines"
http://www.btlonline.org

A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints on national and international issues under-reported in major media For release May 28, 2001

Bush Energy Plan Exacerbates Global Pollution While Subsidizing White House Allies in Utilities and Big Oil

*Greenpeace contends the Bush energy plan employs 19th century technologies to solve 21st century energy problems

The Bush administration, pointing to the rolling blackouts in California and skyrocketing gas prices nationwide, has declared that the U.S. is in the midst of an energy crisis. To meet the challenge, the White House unveiled a plan in early May that emphasizes energy production over conservation. Major elements of the plan include building up to 1,900 new fossil fuel and nuclear power plants, drilling for oil in Alaska's National Wildlife Refuge and the construction of 18,000 miles of fuel pipelines. The energy plan, along with the Bush administration's withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, has been widely criticized both in the U.S. and abroad for aggravating the problem of global warming.

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, both veterans of the oil business, are viewed by many Americans as having crafted this energy plan to primarily benefit their allies in the petroleum and utility industry. The fact that oil, gas, electric power and mining interests contributed $44 million dollars to the Republican party in the last election cycle only underscores concern about this unprecedented government-industry relationship.

Greenpeace is one of many environmental groups that contend the Bush energy plan employs 19th century technologies to solve 21st century energy problems. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Kert Davies, Greenpeace USA's Global Warming and Energy Campaign coordinator, who takes a critical look at the Bush energy plan.

Kert Davies: We're calling the plan a scam and in fact, the "energy crisis" is a farce. There's no energy crisis. There's an abundance of energy and in fact, we use too much energy in this country, if you ask me. The lifestyle we have in the U.S. and Canada is so consumptive we have the largest energy use per capita in the world. That's not inherently a bad thing, but the way we use energy is so wasteful it results in pollution and the harm is eventually felt in global warming, caused by the emissions from burning fossil fuels. But we say that the Bush energy plan is basically a subsidy for all of Bush's friends in the energy industry and they're using this crisis -- or creating this crisis -- to trump up public fear and then have a platform to get their plan through. We hope that people reject that. Just because there are high gas prices and the oil companies are making record profits, doesn't mean that we should act rashly.

Between The Lines: Conservation is mentioned in the Bush energy plan. But only days before details of the plan were announced, Vice President Cheney told the press that conservation and alternative fuels were some kind of fantasy of environmentalists and Democrats that really had no place in the short term solution. How do you respond to that?

Kert Davies: The quote that's being repeated very often -- and I'm sure Cheney wishes he didn't say it -- he called conservation a "personal virtue, but not a solution," as if to demean all the people out there who care enough to turn out the lights when they leave a room. At the same, Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesperson, declared that President Bush would never ask people to conserve energy because it's our right as Americans to do whatever the hell we please. I think it's just ludicrous that they're blind to conservation as a solution to the problem. There is more to be found in conserving energy. It's easier to get there, it's easier to replace a thousand old air conditioners and industrial refrigerators than it is to build a power plant. It's just simpler. It's easier to make our cars a little bit more fuel efficient than it is to build many new refineries and go drill in the Arctic. It's just logical. But it doesn't really pay the industries that (the Bush administration) wants to pay off in this thing. It's more than my cynicism; I mean you can count the billions of dollars in additional subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, to the coal industry, to the electric utilities. The most cynical thing is Bush's call for a tax cut. He uses every excuse for this tax cut he wants. Now he's saying we need a tax cut so people can pay their outrageous energy bills and fill their cars up this summer. Well, where's that money going to go then? It's going to go straight back to Exxon. It's outrageous.

Between The Lines: Now one of the planks of the Bush energy plan that really threw me for a loop was the idea that they strive for a revival of the nuclear power industry in the United States, despite the failures of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and a lot of studies that suggest low level radiation from nuclear power plants is affecting the health and well being of citizens who live within a 20 to 50 mile radius of currently operating nuclear power plants. Is that going to fly? Do people want nuclear power plants built in their back yards in the 21st century?

Kert Davies: You know I think this is the one that's really going to come back to bite them. They're going to wake up a lot of activists who had hoped that their careers as activists were done when Three Mile Island hit and nukes stopped being built. Clearly, (the Bush administration) went to the nuclear industry, and they said, "What's your wish list? What do you need to get your job done," as they did with other industries. Newsweek magazine documented it really well last week, in this meeting that was held where they basically all sat down and wrote up their wishes for regulatory relief. I don't see how any community in this country is going to allow a nuclear power plant to be built anywhere near it. Unless they throw it at very poor, under-educated communities -- environmental racism to the nth degree -- I don't see how they're going to get that done.

Meanwhile, there's a massive public relations blitz going on by the nuclear industry where they show ads featuring young kids with nose rings, head phones on and spiky hair and say nuclear power is clean energy and all this kind of bunk. This is the last gasp of the nuclear industry. They see global warming and the opportunity to pretend to be clean power in terms of air pollution as their last chance.

The bottom line is, Greenpeace sees U.S. energy policy as global policy and it has global ramifications. If we make the wrong choice, if we invest the wrong way now, we waste time and we cause irreparable damage -- more damage to the planet. So we're looking at every option to push the money being spent and the solutions being devised towards clean, green energy. It's a major battle.

It's great we're having this debate because we have to come to the right choice soon, for the sake of the planet. You're going to see a lot of advertising from both sides. There's an industry coalition that's ramping up television ads to promote the Bush energy plan. Environmentalists are launching ads to decry the plan. We're launching campaigns here and there and doing actions to publicize the negative aspects. It's going to be hot and we'll see how it all rolls out this summer.

Contact Greenpeace by calling (202) 462-1177 or visit their Web site at: http://www.greenpeaceusa.org

See related links and listen to an excerpt of this speech in a RealAudio segment on our Web site and archives at: www.btlonline.org for the week ending 6/1/01.

Scott Harris is WPKN Radio's public affairs director and executive producer of Between The Lines. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly newsmagazine, Between The Lines, for the week ending June 1, 2001.

Between The Lines is celebrating its 10th Anniversary with a CD "News & Views That Corporate Media Exclude," featuring Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Z Magazine's Michael Albert and others. Visit our Web site for more information and to hear a promotional announcement with audio clips by clicking here!

To subscribe to Between The Lines Q&A, e-mail btlqa-subscribe@topica.com


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