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FYI Number 71: June 8, 2001

DOE Accepting Public Comment on Energy Efficiency, Renewables Policy

"To speak exclusively of conservation is to duck the tough issues. Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy," stated Vice President Dick Cheney in an April 30 speech on the President's National Energy Policy. Yesterday, five weeks later, the Department of Energy declared that it will hold a series of seven meetings throughout the month of June to receive public comment on the renewable and efficiency aspects of the policy.

"The aim here is efficiency, not austerity," Cheney said on April 30. " We all remember the energy crisis of the 1970s, when people in positions of responsibility complained that Americans just used too much energy.... Well, it's a good thing to conserve energy in our daily lives, and probably all of us can think of ways to do so. We can certainly think of ways that other people can conserve energy. And therein lies a temptation for policymakers the impulse to begin telling Americans that we live too well, and...that we've got to 'do more with less.'"

Increased efficiency and renewable sources of energy are included as part of Bush's National Energy Policy. The plan overview states, " America has the technological know-how and environmentally sound 21st century technologies needed to meet the principal energy challenges we face: promoting energy conservation, repairing and modernizing our energy infrastructure, and increasing our energy supplies in ways that protect and improve the environment."

"We are already working to meet the first challenge: using energy more wisely," the overview continues. " Dramatic technological advances in energy efficiency have enabled us to make great strides in conservation.... While such advances cannot alone solve America's energy problems, they can and will continue to play an important role in our energy future." The plan adds, "Renewable and alternative fuels offer hope for America's energy future. But they supply only a small fraction of present energy needs. The day they fulfill the bulk of our needs is still years away. Until that day comes, we must continue meeting the nation's energy requirements by the means available to us."

In several appropriations hearings on the FY 2002 budget request for DOE's energy programs, Members of Congress criticized the Administration for proposing cuts ranging from 20 to more than 50 percent for various components of the renewable energy and energy efficiency programs (see FYI #64). Key senate appropriator Harry Reid (D-NV), has been quoted by National Journal's CongressDaily as calling the Bush energy policy " shortsighted," and stating, " Bush and Cheney don't believe in renewable energy, and I think that is a mistake.... We have an ongoing battle with the Bush administration because they think the only way to solve the energy crisis is to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and do more offshore drilling for oil." Yesterday, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously passed a bill that would increase FY 2002 funding for energy research and conservation above the amounts requested by the Administration.

Now, in open meetings around the country that will run 12 hours each, DOE is prepared to receive up to 84 hours of public comment, beginning on June 12, as part of what its press release calls "a comprehensive review of the programs called for in President Bush's National Energy Policy." In the release, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham says, " Energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy resources are critical elements of the President's National Energy Policy. The public's input at these meetings will help us identify opportunities for future research and investment while assessing our past effectiveness in these areas."

The release states that " comments offered at these meetings should address the objectives of the current energy efficiency and renewable energy research, development, demonstration and deployment programs; suggested potential objectives for future programs; implementation of current and future programs; and whether these federal programs are achieving intended objectives."

For a list of the meeting dates and locations, please see the DOE press release. Information about how to submit written comments is also included in the press release.

  Audrey T. Leath
Public Information Division
American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3094

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