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Cheney Is an Oaf on Conservation | The Nation

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Cheney Is an Oaf on Conservation

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Why beat around the Bush? Surrogate President Dick Cheney is behaving like an oil-guzzling, intellectually irresponsible, anti-environmental oaf.

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Robert Scheer
Robert Scheer, a contributing editor to The Nation, is editor of Truthdig.com and author of The Great American Stickup...

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How else to define one who summarily dismisses the promising advances made in energy conservation while urging the more rapid depletion of fossil fuel resources and construction of nuclear power plants?

Cheney is a mouthpiece for energy companies like Halliburton, his former employer, which paid him $36 million in his last year of brief service as its CEO in a field he previously knew nothing about. But the company, which prospers when new power plants are built, got its money's worth when President Bush added "energy policy czar" to Cheney's extensive White House portfolio, leaving the president ample time to greet Little League teams.

Ever grateful to the oil bigwigs who made him financially whole while lavishly supporting the GOP ticket, Cheney barely took up his new civic responsibility before launching a war on energy conservation. In his words, the commitment to conservation, endorsed by a long line of presidents of both parties, was valuable primarily as therapy for tree-huggers: "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy."

Nonsense. Conservation works, and according to the latest government studies--pointedly ignored by Cheney--it could be a major factor in staving off any future energy crisis.

As the New York Times reported in its lead story Sunday, "Scientists at the country's national laboratories have projected enormous energy savings if the government takes aggressive steps to encourage energy conservation in homes, factories, offices, appliances, cars and power plants."

The three-year studies by the five national science laboratories undermine Cheney's shrill insistence that the country must pop for a huge new polluting power plant every week for the next two decades, lest our homes and factories go dark. The studies concluded that a government-led conservation program could cut growth in energy consumption almost in half, using proven technology already tested and in place.

Such technology is already saving energy and money at Cheney's official residence at the Naval Observatory and at President Bush's new ranch in Crawford, Texas. Inexplicably, what's good for them isn't good enough for the rest of the country.

To ignore scientific breakthroughs on energy conservation is to lie to the American people about the dimensions of the problem. This is not leadership; this is fear-mongering that withholds from the American public sound scientific information in order to justify eviscerating conservation policy.

Indeed, the administration's 2002 budget kills much of President Clinton's program to improve energy efficiency in building construction, heating and appliances, savings that would have obviated the need for an estimated 170 new power plants.

Cheney chose to attack conservation at the very time when California embarked on a major plan to end its electricity shortage through lowering consumer demand--a shortage that Cheney irresponsibly blames on environmentalists who were insisting on pollution controls.

California's crisis is being created by the price-gouging of mostly out-of-state energy suppliers that are taking advantage of a deregulation plan hatched by former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson in cahoots with the privately owned utilities. The utilities wanted to sell off what they incorrectly figured to be the less-profitable energy production business, including ever-troubled nuclear plants of the sort Cheney now embraces. In return, they agreed to temporary caps on consumer prices.

The problem is that the feds control wholesale prices, which they didn't cap. Last week, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission finally recognized that it needed to exercise its legal authority to cap wholesale prices, Cheney blasted it: "If I had been at FERC, I never would have voted for short-term price caps."

California consumers should remember Cheney's refusal to rein in the price-gougers come the next election.

Finally, whatever happened to the monarchs of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait saved by former President Bush and then-Defense Secretary Cheney during the Gulf War?

The monarchs sit atop the world's largest oil reserve. Wouldn't you think that since they owe their continued existence to the Bush clan, they might return the favor with lower oil prices? Instead, US consumers are being punished at the gas pumps with some of the highest prices in recent memory.

The dirty secret is that the Texas oilmen in the White House like the price of foreign crude to be very high. That justifies increased US production, even in pristine lands, and boosts energy profits, which doubtless will fatten the coffers of Republican candidates in the next election.

You can't say we weren't warned. Put two Texas oil guys in the White House, and they are going to seize any opportunity to grease the palms of their big oil backers while raping the environment.

Still, it is surprising that they are being so obscenely blatant about it.

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