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Power Crisis Has Mileage for Bush | The Nation

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Power Crisis Has Mileage for Bush

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The Bush Administration is pulling a fast one on energy, and we will all pay dearly for decades to come. By panicking the public with oil industry propaganda of an energy shortage, the Bushies are building support for the most reckless energy policy since the days before the environmentalist movement, when blackened skies and lungs represented the vision of progress.

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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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To make things worse, to head off objections to their plans to plunder virgin lands and obliterate conservation measures, they have thrown in as a palliative the old oxymoron of "clean" nuclear power.

Of course there is nothing clean about nuclear waste, which can never be rendered safe.

The public may temporarily accept new nuclear power plants, as long as one is not built anywhere near their neighborhood and the radioactive byproduct is shipped to another part of the country.

But trust me, while these things may be better designed today, the insurance companies are no dummies for still refusing to insure nuclear power plants. It is wildly irresponsible for the Bush Administration to now insist that US taxpayers underwrite these inherently dangerous ventures.

Does anyone even remember Three Mile Island? Or, more disastrously, Chernobyl? I was the first foreign print journalist admitted to the Chernobyl plant after the explosion. Even a year after the fact, and with the benefit of the best of Western scientific advice, it was still a scene of chaos. Nuclear power is like that--unpredictable, unstable and ultimately as dangerous as it gets.

The entire Chernobyl operation is now buried in a concrete-covered grave, but the huge area under the radioactive plume emitted from the plant is a permanent cancer breeding ground, as is the sediment in the area's main rivers and throughout much of its farm land. I traveled from Moscow to Chernobyl by train in the company of top US and Soviet experts, but even they seemed to feel lost and frightened as they donned white coats and Geiger counters to tour Chernobyl. Nuclear power is just too risky a gamble to push because of a phony energy crisis.

The desperation in the White House is palpable, but it is not over an "energy crisis," which Bush's buddies and campaign contributors manipulated in the Western electricity market.

No, the fear of the Bush people, even before Jim Jeffords's defection, was that their political power would be short-lived and that they had best move as fast as possible on their pet projects, beginning with increasing the profits of GOP energy company contributors.

Why else the panic? There is no sudden energy crisis. Known world reserves of fossil fuel are greater than ever, alternative energy sources are booming, and conservation measures work. If the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would do its legally required duty of capping wholesale prices to prevent gouging, there would not be an electricity crisis in California or elsewhere.

The FERC has not done its job. Clearly, as the New York Times reported last week, energy wholesalers are in cahoots with the Bush administration to use the FERC as their personal marketing tool to drive up their already obscene profits.

Finally, there is simply no reason to rape America in pursuit of something called "energy self-sufficiency." If the vast reservoirs of natural energy resources--resources that are sitting under land controlled by regimes around the world that we've propped up at enormous military cost for half a century--are not available to be sold to us at a fair price, why continue to prop up these regimes? What did President Bush's Dad, with his buddies Dick Cheney and Colin Powell, achieve in preserving Saudi Arabia and Kuwait if those degenerate monarchs they saved in the Gulf War will not now trade fairly in the one commodity of value that they hold?

We must make our quid pro quo clear: We will pay for a huge military to keep these sheikdoms and other energy-rich regimes in power only if they guarantee fair oil and natural gas prices for our retail consumers.

Make that deal and the energy "crisis" is history.

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