A headache called Bush

A headache called Bush

the long-awaited us energy policy is finally out and its contents have come as no surprise. For people in the oil and gas industry, it is a dream come true. But for environmentalists, it is a disaster waiting to happen. The reliance on fossil fuels rather than renewable energy is considered as another setback for international efforts to combat climate change.

George W Bush's policy gives a major boost to oil and gas exploration, expansion of nuclear power plants and encourages the exploration of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Unveiling his policy at St Paul in Minnesota, Bush stated: "I can't think of anything better for national security than to replace barrels of oil that come into the country from nations that can't stand the us .' He said that fossil fuels were a means to "light the way to a brighter future.'

Bush said the country requires an additional 1,300-1,900 power plants by 2020 to meet the country's growing energy demands. For this he has proposed to double the number of nuclear reactors in the power plant sites already licensed by the federal government. It must be remembered that no nuclear power plants have been built since 1978 accident at the Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania that resulted in losses worth us $1 billion. Today, there are 103 nuclear power plants in the country, which account for 20 per cent of the country's electricity generation.

Bush defended his plans by highlighting the possibility of carrying out oil and gas explorations by adopting clean technology, but he failed to convince environmentalists. "The Bush energy plan is an all-you-can-eat buffet for big oil, gas, mining, nuclear firms. Industry executives are salivating over this plan more than a Texan at a rib roast,' says Brian Vincent, California organiser for the national conservation group, American Lands.

Mark Van Putten, president of the National Wildlife Federation, one of the largest environmental organisations in the us agrees: "The nation's need for a stable energy supply must not be satisfied at the expense of people and wildlife. The administration proposes to invade some of the nation's wildest and most sensitive public lands by side-stepping the very safeguards established to protect them.'

Bush stated that the country was facing the most serious energy crisis since the 1970s, but did not offer solutions to California's frequent power blackouts or to the increasing oil prices. California's governor, Gary Davis has accused Bush of doing nothing to provide relief to the state. "By not doing anything, you are allowing the greedy energy companies, many of whom are based in Texas, to get away with murder,' alleged Davis. In fact, the energy crisis in California is due to the badly managed deregulation of power, rather than any real energy crisis.

The energy policy, which has received strong criticism worldwide, is seen as a sign of Bush's obstinacy towards America's Kyoto Protocol commitments. Bush had rejected the protocol in March 2001. Jan Pronk, head of the last round of formal climate change negotiations held in the Hague in November 2000, termed the plan as a "disastrous development' as it would lead to increased emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

The policy "confirms that the us is not taking Kyoto into account' in its domestic policies, says a spokesperson for the European Union Energy Commissioner Loyola de Palacio.

In Australia, Senator Bob Brown accused Bush of coming up with a "combination of Exxon Valdez and Chernobyl,' referring to the tanker oil spill and the Ukraine nuclear disaster. However, these criticisms have not deterred Bush from going ahead with his energy policy. He issued an order directing all federal agencies to review permits and clear any obstacles to oil and gas leasing in public lands, "while maintaining safety, public health, and environmental protections.'

Defending his stand on fossil fuels, Bush says: "Energy production and environment protection are not competing priorities.' The only consolation in the new policy is the us $10 billion tax credits over 10 years for conservation measures. This includes the development of electricity from wind and biomass and us $4 billion in credits to buy "hybrid' electric-gasoline vehicles or cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells. This plan was earlier suggested by former vice president Al Gore but dismissed by Bush. He also suggested a 15 per cent tax credit for domestic use of solar energy.