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State of the Union: The advanced energy initiative

The White House, USA
In His State Of The Union Address, President Bush Outlined The Advanced Energy Initiative To Help Break America’s Dependence On Foreign Sources Of Energy.

The President has set a national goal of replacing more than 75% of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025. With America on the verge of breakthroughs in advanced energy technologies, the best way to break the addiction to foreign oil is through new technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable alternative energy sources. Tonight, the President announced the Advanced Energy Initiative, which provides for a 22% increase in clean-energy research at the Department of Energy (DOE). The Initiative will accelerate our breakthroughs in two vital areas; how we power our homes and businesses; and how we power our automobiles.
(31 January 2006)
Many related articles are now available online. E&E TV has a video of reactions from US lawmakers

In call for less foreign oil, Bush sounds familiar note

Matthew L. Wald and Edmund L. Andrews, NY TImes
When President Bush vowed on Tuesday to reduce drastically American dependence on oil from the Middle East, he had plenty of company.

President Richard M. Nixon promised in 1971 to make the United States self-sufficient in energy by 1980. President Jimmy Carter promised in 1979 that the nation would “never again use more foreign oil than we did in 1977.”

And Mr. Bush has called in each of his past four State of the Union addresses for a reduction in the dependence on foreign oil.

Despite all of those promises in the past 35 years, United States dependence on oil imports is at a record level. American petroleum production has declined as fields have been exhausted, but American demand for fuel has climbed with the increased use of sport utility vehicles, vans and pickup trucks.

For most of his presidency, Mr. Bush has placed top priority on increasing domestic oil and gas production. He has supported tax incentives for oil and gas drilling, aggressive production in the Gulf of Mexico, and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
(1 February 2006)

Hooked on petroleum
The state of energy

Editorial, NY Times
President George W. Bush devoted two minutes and 15 seconds of his State of the Union speech to energy independence. It was hardly the bold signal Americans have been waiting for through years of global warming and deadly struggles in the Middle East, where everything takes place in the context of what Bush rightly called America’s addiction to imported oil.

Tuesday night’s remarks were woefully insufficient. The future economic and national security of the United States will depend on whether Americans can control their enormous appetite for fossil fuels. This is not a matter to be lumped in a laundry list of other initiatives during a once-a-year speech to Congress. It is the key to everything else…

American overdependence on oil has been a disaster for U.S. foreign policy. It weakens America’s international leverage and empowers exactly the wrong countries…

Even if the war on terror had never begun, Bush would have an obligation to be serious about the energy issue, given the enormous danger to America’s economy if it fails to act…

Part of the answer, as Bush indicated Tuesday, is the continued development of alternative fuels, especially for cars…

Simply calling for more innovation is painless. The hard part is calling for anything that smacks of sacrifice – on the part of consumers or special interests, and politicians who depend on their support.

Of all the defects in Bush’s energy presentation, the greatest was his unwillingness to address global warming – an energy-related emergency every bit as critical as America’s reliance on foreign oil…
(1 February 2006)

Also posted at Common Dreams.

A welcome clarion call on energy from the New York Times. The Times and the Washington Post have good reporters covering energy and the environment. Yet their coverage so far is only a fraction of what is needed. We have yet to see comprehensive, in-depth coverage of peak oil. Conservation and energy efficiency need more than occasional feature stories. The promises and pitfalls of ethanol need to be explored. Physician, heal thyself!

As a counter-model, consider the much smaller Cleveland Plain Dealer. Alone of major US newspapers, the Plain Dealer has heroically been running a year-long series on energy (see also Working the Fringes). Or consider the Peak Oil blogosphere: what mainstream publication has had the in-depth analyses of The Oil Drum? -BA

Numbers and the State of the Union Energy segment

Heading Out, The Oil Drum
The President’s State of the Union message divided his energy initiative into two parts. The first deals with the stability of the supply of energy to the electric grid, and the second dealt with fuels for transportation. Both are fossil fuel dependent, but it is in transportation that the dependance on foreign oil is most critical. Let’s unpack them under the fold.

The replacement of oil and gas power sources for electricity will be from an increased investment in “zero-emission coal-fired plants; revolutionary solar and wind technologies; and clean, safe nuclear energy”. The funding here does not look for any major breakthroughs. The specific allocations for electric power are…
(1 February 2006)
David Roberts at Gristmill wrote a flurry of posts on the State of the Union address.

The liberal Think Progress site criticized Bush’s remarks in several posts:
Dependence on Foreign Oil Has Increased Under Bush
Bush Wanted Renewable Energy Cuts
Bush Wanted Biofuel Cuts

Layoffs in store at National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Gargi Chakrabarty, Rocky Mountain News
Up to 100 scientists may go as Congress slashes budget
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden plans to lay off as many as 100 scientists and researchers, or 11 percent of its total staff, beginning early next month as it faces drastic cuts in its budget.

The fiscal 2006 cuts, estimated at more than $20 million, or 10 percent of its $200 million budget in fiscal 2005, are the result of Congress earmarking or diverting a big chunk of federal funds toward other projects.

In fiscal 2006, Congress cut the Department of Energy’s budget for all renewable energy programs by more than 35 percent. As a result, DOE, which funds NREL as well as other national labs, has cut the total amount it will give the lab in Golden. NREL does research in wind, biomass, solar and hydrogen technologies.
(December 20, 2005)
So, Mr. President, is the State of the Union merely feel-good rhetoric, or will you do something real, for example, in cases like this? -BA