Energy Policy: Bush and Cheney were Right

The precise cause of last week’s blackouts is still being investigated. Amidst the unknowns, there are some things we do know: the nation’s transmission grid is antiquated, and, according to the Energy Information Administration, the supply of electric power plants must increase to meet growing electricity demand over the next two decades.

President Bush, with help from Vice President Dick Cheney, outlined these very issues in the National Energy Policy Report (NEPR) in 2001, and their analysis proved prescient. “For the electricity we need, we must be ambitious,” Cheney said. “Transmission grids stand in need of repair, upgrading, and expansion. If we put these connections in place, we’ll go a long way toward avoiding blackouts.”

Environmentalists, on the other hand, have no energy plan–instead, they have blocked development of clean, renewable wind energy off the shores of Nantucket; opposed construction of new power plants; delayed efforts to modernize the power grid; fought to shut down clean nuclear energy (which, incidentally, provides a substantial amount of electricity in New York); opposed New Source Review reforms, allowing utilities to upgrade their facilities in an environmentally sound manner; and opposed President Bush’s Clear Skies Initiative, which not only reduces power plant emissions by 70 percent by 2018, and, unlike competing legislation, does so in a way that won’t undermine energy supply or reliability.

The NEPR made several recommendations, not to mention an explicit call for action, only to be obstructed by the environmental lobby.

Here are some relevant excerpts from the NEPR, demonstrating that the Bush Administration fundamentally understood the nation’s energy crisis and proposed the right solutions to fix it:

  • “A fundamental imbalance between supply and demand defines our nation’s energy crisis. This imbalance, if allowed to continue, will inevitably undermine our economy, our standard of living, and our national security.”
  • One of the factors harming the environment today is the very lack of long-term national energy policy. States confronting blackouts must take desperate measures, often at the expense of environmental standards, requesting waivers of environmental rules, and delaying the implementation of anti-pollution efforts. Shortfalls in electricity generating capacity and shortsighted policies have blocked construction of new, cleaner plants, leaving no choice but to rely on older, inefficient plants to meet demand. The increased use of emergency power sources, such as diesel generators, results in greater air pollution.
  • “To reduce the incidence of electricity blackouts, we must greatly enhance our ability to transmit electric power between geographic regions, that is, sending power to where it is needed from where it is produced.”
  • Most of America’s transmission lines, substations, and transformers were built when utilities were tightly regulated and provided service only within their assigned regions. The system is simply unequipped for large-scale swapping of power in the highly competitive market of the 21st century.
  • Relevant NEPR Recommendations:

  • “To meet projected demand over the next two decades, America must have in place between 1,300 and 1,900 new electric plants.”
  • Grant authority to obtain rights-of-way for electricity transmission lines with the goal of creating a reliable national transmission grid.
  • Enact comprehensive electricity legislation that promotes competition, encourages new generation, protects consumers, enhances reliability, and promotes renewable energy.