George W. Bush campaigned for office on a platform that advocated, among other measures, tapping the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge in order to bolster the nation’s dwindling oil reserves. Now, as if California’s Stage 3 energy crisis and rolling blackouts have not been troublesome enough, Bush is blaming the power shortage on the state’s overly strict environmental standards. Consequentially, Bush and his cronies are illegitimately trying to capitalize on California’s dilemma in an attempt to push through an aggressive national energy policy.
Although the new president has extended directives issued by Clinton that force out-of-state power suppliers to continue selling juice to California, the Bush administration has threatened to leave the state in the dark if the problem is not remedied as the White House sees fit. The governors of Oregon and Arizona have complained to Bush that the power crisis is “spilling over” into their respective states, and Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan warned Congress last week that such energy woes could potentially have negative effects on the national economy. In response, Bush has created a new task force to study the problem, while Vice President Dick Cheney has placed blame on California’s “flawed deregulation scheme” and overly restrictive environmental regulatory process. Loosening environmental standards, however, is a drastic and unnecessary response to what is, essentially, a short-term problem.
Most analysts predict that while utility costs may rise and no solution will be painless, California will eventually iron out its problems without federal intervention. Conservation is on the rise, gas prices are falling and the state government is entertaining a number of plans that would extend the public hand back into the utility industry to varying degrees. Facilitating regulatory approval for the construction of new power plants would certainly furnish California with much needed megawatts, but the plan has serious environmental repercussions and does not address the inherent problems of what Cheney correctly identified as a “flawed deregulation scheme.” If the energy crisis is to be resolved, the industry must be placed back where it belongs – in the hands of state government. Unfortunately, Bush has a vested interest in exploiting California’s predicament.
The Bush administration has utilized the state’s Stage 3 energy alert to highlight a national power shortage. Essentially, the White House is attempting to use California as evidence that something needs to be done to increase resources coast to coast, and proposes removing the ban on exploratory drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge as a solution. However, both energy officials and proponents of arctic drilling have admitted that this action would do nothing to assuage problems in the West.
California’s dilemma will be short-lived. By the time exploratory drilling strikes oil and an underground pipeline is constructed to channel the black gold to local markets, the energy crisis in the West will be a memory. What, then, is the rationale for destroying pristine wilderness and taking such a drastic environmental risk?
It is true that the nation needs more power; it always has and it always will. The Clinton administration made significant headway towards achieving efficient, sustainable energy sources, yet Bush is abandoning this alternative. At the very least, “Dubya’s” administration must come up with a more pressing and convincing reason than California’s energy crisis if it wants to scrap important environmental regulations and tap Alaska like an Isla Vista keg. Bush’s thinly veiled attempt to capitalize on California’s energy shortage in order to push through an ill-planned and overly aggressive energy agenda must be recognized for what it is: one megawatt short of rational.