The revolution will not be televised

  • Greg Hanscom

 

In a speech before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in April, President George W. Bush told a story about talking to troops in Texas who were concerned about the rising cost of gasoline. Bush explained that he had no "magic wand" to reduce gas prices, but he hinted that his energy plan, which he wants Congress to approve ASAP, would provide some relief. If only that were true. In fact, experts say that Bush’s energy policy will do nothing to bring down the prices at the pump, in spite of its heavy emphasis on drilling for oil and gas.

We’ve seen this before from the president on energy issues. In early 2001, he insinuated that environmental regulations were somehow responsible for the California energy crisis. Seattle writer Bruce Barcott has documented in The New York Times how Bush used that notion to help justify gutting rules that require coal-fired power plants to comply with the Clean Air Act — despite the fact that Bush’s old friends at Enron, not environmental regulations, were behind the so-called "crisis."

What is the president up to now? In his April talk, Bush laid out his priorities: (1) encouraging energy efficiency and renewable energy research; (2) expanding domestic energy production in environmentally sensitive ways; and (3) developing alternative sources of energy. Sounds good. Sounds great, in fact. The problem is that when you look at the details of his energy plan, you come away with a very different picture.

Bush’s plan would pour $2 billion into developing cleaner technology for burning coal, which he calls "our most abundant energy source." It would pour billions more into nuclear power, which Bush says "produces without pollution." The "alternatives" he speaks of are corn-based ethanol and hydrogen fuel cells. Truly clean and abundant energy sources such as wind and solar get short shrift.

And so we find ourselves again in the position of looking elsewhere for leadership. Happily, as Laura Paskus writes in this issue’s cover story, that leadership is emerging in the West, from state governments, rural electric co-ops and everyday people. The West is, after all, the cradle — and the grave — for much of the nation’s energy industry. This region produces much of the coal and natural gas and uranium, for example, and nuclear power plants back East have been trying for years to send us their radioactive waste.

In a sense, President Bush is doing us all a favor. It makes sense that the people are the ones leading this charge. Westerners and Easterners alike, we’re the ones who breathe the smog from coal-fired power plants, who see firsthand the impacts of mining and drilling, and who feel the effects of global warming. We’re also the ones who make the energy business boom, by plugging in our computers and TVs and air conditioners, and buying bigger and bigger SUVs.

But if we can lead — in the right direction — Congress just might follow, and create a national energy policy that we can all believe in.

High Country News Classifieds
  • 10 ACRES OF NEW MEXICO HIGH DESERT
    10 Acres of undeveloped high desert land in central NM, about 45 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Mixed cedar and piñon pine cover. Some dirt roadways...
  • WATERSHED RESTORATION DIRECTOR
    $58k-$70k + benefits to oversee watershed restoration projects that fulfill our strategic goals across urban and rural areas within the bi-national Santa Cruz and San...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    We are a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education, innovation, and collaboration....
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Come work alongside everyday Montanans to project our clean air, water, and build thriving communities! Competitive salary, health insurance, pension, generous vacation time and sabbatical....
  • CAMPAIGN MANAGER
    Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting, defending and restoring Oregon's high desert, seeks a Campaign Manager to works as...
  • HECHO DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, COLUMBIA CASCADES
    The Regional Representative serves as PCTA's primary staff on the ground along the trail working closely with staff, volunteers, and nonprofit and agency partners. This...
  • FINANCE AND OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    The Montana Land Reliance (MLR) seeks a full-time Finance and Operations Director to manage the internal functions of MLR and its nonprofit affiliates. Key areas...
  • DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION
    The Nature Conservancy is recruiting for a Director of Conservation. Provides strategic leadership and support for all of the Conservancy's conservation work in Arizona. The...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • BIG BASIN SENIOR PROJECT PLANNER - CLIMATE ADAPTATION & RESILIENCE
    Parks California Big Basin Senior Project Planner - Climate Adaptation & Resilience ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND Parks California is a new organization working to ensure that our...
  • SCIENCE PROJECT MANAGER
    About Long Live the Kings (LLTK) Our mission is to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1986,...
  • NEW BOOK BY AWARD-WINNING WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, BRUCE SMITH
    In a perilous place at the roof of the world, an orphaned mountain goat is rescued from certain death by a mysterious raven.This middle-grade novel,...
  • MOUNTAIN LOTS FOR SALE
    Multiple lots in gated community only 5 miles from Great Sand Dunes National Park. Seasonal flowing streams. Year round road maintenance.
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, HIke the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • CAUCASIAN OVCHARKA PUPPIES
    Strong loyal companions. Ready to protect your family and property. Proven against wolves and grizzlies. Imported bloodlines. Well socialized.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!