Now that Republicans rule the Senate, President Bush’s dream of overhauling the nation’s energy policy appears likely to become a reality. And while much of the attention has gone to the president’s proposal for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, the new legislation includes several little-noticed items that embody the administration’s ground-breaking approach to energy conservation.
By Deanna Swift
WASHINGTON— Now that Republicans rule the Senate, President Bush’s dream of overhauling the nation’s energy policy appears likely to become a reality. And while much of the attention has gone to the president’s proposal for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, the new legislation includes several little-noticed items that embody the administration’s ground-breaking approach to energy conservation. Here’s a look:
Under a bold new energy savings plan, federally-funded programs will be asked to slash energy usage in exchange for government money. Head Start, the thirty-five year old child development program that serves 850,000 low-income children across the country, was one of the first to be tapped by the Bush administration for participation in a pilot version of the plan. Charlene Exley-Smith, a spokeswoman for the organization, said that Head Start is taking the new mandate to conserve energy very seriously.
"For a small group like ours, wringing additional savings out of the budget isn't easy. So we took a hard look at the services we provide and asked ourselves which of them could be done without natural gas or electricity. It was pretty obvious: the 'meals in schools' program," said Exley-Smith. Next month, the group will replace the hot breakfasts that it serves in thousands of public schools with cold cereal. "Saving energy is a worthy goal," said Exley-Smith, "and by no longer cooking eggs and toasting bread, we're putting a substantial amount of electricity and natural gas back into the nation's pot."
Gentlemen, Start Your Engines
White House energy experts, including Vice President Dick Cheney, are cheering the release of a new study regarding gasoline usage by American consumers. The study, by the Energy Research Institute, concludes that 40 percent of all gasoline consumed in this country is burned when Americans start their engines. By letting cars and sport utility vehicles run continuously, says the study's author, Dr. Robert B. Brantley, Americans will actually be saving gas. The study also identifies 'speed bumps,' placed at the entrances of schools, shopping malls, and intersection, as a major energy waster. "An engine that's running at full throttle is a productive, efficient engine," explained Brantley. "Anything that slows it down is basically a net energy waster."
According to White House spokesperson Claire Buchan, the Bush Administration plans to implement the study's recommendations in the spring, requiring users of the Capitol Hill Parking Garage adjacent to the US Congress to leave their vehicles running while Congress is in session. "This is just one of the proposals that the President hopes will ease our nation's short-term energy demands," said Buchan.
Prisoners Power Up
They're already making clothes, answering phones, even working as travel agents. Soon, the two million men and women who are currently in American prisons will have a new assignment: helping to power the country. Of 1,900 new power plants slated for construction, the Bush administration has proposed that 25 percent be built on or near prison grounds.
"It's a win-win situation from our vantage point," said Lou G. Breaux, Director of Communications for the Nashville, TN Corrections Corporation of American, the country's largest for-profit prison company. "The country gets the energy we all depend on, while the inmate population learns marketable skills. Everyone wins with this plan," said Breaux. While Vice President Dick Cheney originally proposed that prisoners operate several new nuclear plants, that plan has since been shelved due to safety concerns.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration is looking into other ways to make America's prisons more energy efficient. That could mean good news for advocates of renewable fuel sources. One proposal: powering electric chairs in Florida, Texas and Alabama with cleaner, more efficient photo-voltaic generating systems. Re-chargeable solar-powered stun guns are also on the drawing block.
Faith-Based Energy Solutions
President Bush is already talking to faith-based organizations about providing services for the nation's poor. Now he's hoping that hundreds of American church groups will lend the power of prayer to help ease the country's energy woes. Thousands of men who attended a recent rally of the Promise Keeper's ministry in South Dakota were reminded of their responsibility to put not just food on the family table, but fuel in the national tank. "Purity, fidelity, and now energy efficiency," said Ministry leader Joe White. "This is the Promise Keeper way."
The President's faith-based approach to energy even has some important support off shore. Rumors were flying after the fall meeting of the College of Cardinals in Vatican City that Pope John Paul II has an unusual candidate in mind for sanctification: legendary Texasoil-man T. Boone Pickens.
Deanna Swift can be reached at [email protected]