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[GreenYes] Pending Bush Cuts in Energy Efficiency Programs


WASHINGTON, April 4  The Bush administration plans to cut programs 
intended to make buildings and factories use less energy and to 
generate more power from the wind and the sun, people who have seen 
the administration's budget proposal say.

The cuts, being proposed despite the administration's contention that 
the nation faces an energy crisis, would reduce the Energy 
Department's overall spending on energy efficiency and renewable 
energy by about $180 million, or 15 percent, though some people 
involved in the process said the administration had talked of cuts of 
up to 30 percent.

The spending reductions reflect how the Bush administration has 
sought to upend the Clinton administration's approach to energy 
policy by emphasizing efforts to increase the supply of oil and gas 
while reviewing or canceling some programs intended to reduce demand.

President Bush has repeatedly warned that California's electricity 
shortages are part of a broader energy crisis that requires urgent 
action. Mr. Bush cited the nation's energy needs in abandoning a 
campaign pledge to impose controls on carbon dioxide emissions by 
power plants. He has also said he wants to open protected federal 
lands to oil and gas exploration.

A task force headed by Vice President Dick Cheney is drafting a broad 
energy plan that will propose ways to reduce demand as well as 
increase energy supplies, administration officials say. But the 
administration has tended to play down the potential of efficiency 
programs or new sources of energy, arguing that they impose a burden 
on private industry and might not contribute much to alleviating 

For example, the administration is now reviewing whether to delay or 
scrap Clinton administration standards that would require new clothes 
washers, water heaters and central air-conditioners to use less 
electricity and natural gas. The air-conditioner standards offer the 
greatest potential for energy savings  they would require that new 
central air- conditioners use one-third less energy than under 
current minimum standards of efficiency  but they are being fought 
by an industry group that calls them too expensive.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham declined to discuss details of the 
budget cuts, which officials say are not final until the president's 
budget proposal is formally unveiled on Monday. But in a recent 
television interview, Mr. Abraham referred to some such programs 
as "not having returned a very good investment for the taxpayers."

The programs in question have helped develop a range of standards and 
other tools to reduce energy demand and increase the supply of energy 
from nonpolluting sources. Supporters say the programs have had some 
notable successes, among them reducing the cost of wind power by as 
much as 90 percent and developing software that architects often use 
to design energy-efficient office buildings.

Not all such programs are scheduled for cuts. Mr. Bush promised in 
the campaign to increase financing to help low-income families 
insulate their homes, and an Energy Department program devoted to 
such weatherization is scheduled to get $120 million more next year 
than it received in this year's budget, a 100 percent increase.

But a program to reduce energy use at steel, glass, pulp paper and 
refining companies, all heavy users of energy, is set for a sharp 
reduction, people who have seen the budget proposal said. The budget 
also envisions less spending to improve the design of offices and 

Research into wind, solar and geothermal energy development is also 
scaled back under the plan. California relies on geothermal energy 
sources for 6 percent of its electricity needs, and some who served 
in the Clinton administration say investment in deploying that source 
of energy more broadly could help ease the state's electricity 

Some lawmakers from both parties have pressed the administration to 
maintain financing levels for energy efficiency programs, but they 
say the administration has stood firm.

"My impression is that this is just not a priority for them, which is 
inconsistent in that they keep sounding the alarm about an energy 
crisis," said Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, the ranking 
Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

But some Republicans have signaled support for a new energy policy 
that puts less emphasis on protecting the environment.

"The problem is that over the last eight or nine years we've not had 
an energy policy, we've had an environmental policy that drove energy 
policy," Representative Joe L. Barton, Republican of Texas, told an 
audience of electricity industry executives at an Energy Marketers 
Association conference today.

Government financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy has 
varied sharply over the last two decades. It was highest at the end 
of the Carter administration, when the nation faced a severe energy 
crunch. President Ronald Reagan discontinued most such spending, but 
it rose during both the Bush and Clinton administrations. At $1.2 
billion, the total spending today measured in constant 1998 dollars 
is still only one- third the level of 20 years ago.

Though supporters of such programs acknowledge that some government 
research has proved ineffective, they say the nation would face a far 
greater energy crisis today without government- and industry-backed 
efficiency advances.

They cite studies concluding that energy efficiency technology 
developed in the last two decades created $200 billion in energy 
savings last year.

Peter Anderson
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
(608) 231-1100/Fax (608) 233-0011

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