Bush Criticized for Continued Support for Renewable Energy

Competitive Enterprise Institute critical of President's support for subsidized energy, including alternative energy, while ignoring massive subsidies for nuclear and fossil fuel industries.

Published: 08-Feb-2002

WASHINGTON, DC, U.S. President George Bush has received a grade of 'B+' on energy issues during his first year in office, but his continued support for renewable energy is a problem, according to a Washington lobby group.

The overall performance of the Bush administration is a 'B,' according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute. "The Administration has managed to put affordable energy above environmental scare campaigns, confront Europe over climate and trade issues, and appoint reform-minded people to agencies most in need of reexamining their regulatory powers."

In the energy sector, CEI gives Bush a rating of 'B+' due to his support for domestic energy exploration including drilling in the Arctic (ANWR) and coastal areas. However, "continued support for subsidies to inefficient 'alternative' energy producers is still a problem," it notes.

In environmental issues, the report card gives Bush a rating of 'C-' for allowing "too many eleventh-hour Clinton-era regulations and federal land-use decisions ... to go forward," which has been the administration's weakest point, says CEI. "Partial credit granted for removing 'right to know' information about sensitive chemical and industrial facilities from the government websites."

In climate change, the group gave Bush a rating of 'A-' for the President's decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol and not to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. "Soft support for a 'voluntary' carbon dioxide exchange among some inside the White House provides reason for caution," it warns.

Bush received a 'B' in health and safety and a 'B+' in technology.

CEI is a public policy group that promotes the principles of free enterprise and limited government involvement. Since its founding in 1984, CEI has grown into a US$3 million institution with a team of 40 policy staff and calls itself a non-traditional 'think tank.'

In December, the group supported quick passage of energy legislation to open drilling in the ANWR and criticized proposed Senate legislation to "tack on tens of billions of dollars of subsidies and tax breaks for corporations that can't compete in the market."

In September, it criticized the United States for investing "between $30 and $40 billion" in "so-called renewable energy sources" in recent decades, "but after spending that mind-boggling sum, renewables only account for a small amount of U.S. energy consumption." It called non-hydro renewables "particularly poor performers" and said there is "a chorus on Capitol Hill and in the media insisting that the government continue pouring good money after bad. Every time the Department of Energy budget comes up for review, and we are confronted with the underperforming state of renewable energy research, these same people say we need to go double or nothing, as if the payoff is right around the corner."

"Among the pervasive myths bandied about is the idea that renewables alone will solve our nation's energy ills," said the article. "But the sad fact is that soft energies are far from adequate at meeting today's demand, much less what our demand will be 20 years hence."

"Generating electricity from solar power, for instance, costs roughly four times what it costs to generate electricity from combined-cycle natural gas. And then there is the question of land. One megawatt of production requires five to 17 acres of land, compared with 1/25th of an acre per gas-powered megawatt."

"Wind power suffers from similar cost problems, and is at least twice as expensive as fossil fuel power generation," it continues. "Just as disturbing, wind turbines kill birds by the score. According to a specialist with the California Energy Commission, birds are five times more likely to die near wind turbines than they are away from them. Also, wind power requires from 30 to 200 times as much land as a natural gas plant in order to produce the same amount of energy."

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