Cheney pushes for oil, gas, nuclear development

Tuesday, May 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TORONTO (AP) _ Vice President Dick Cheney says the whole nation could face blackouts like those that have hit California unless it finds more oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear energy.

``The aim here is efficiency, not austerity,'' Cheney told editors and publishers Monday at The Associated Press annual meeting. The nation cannot ``simply conserve or ration our way out of the situation we're in.''

Cheney addressed concerns about his history of four heart attacks by jokingly offering to do jumping jacks. More seriously, he said, ``If I ever get to the point where my doctors believe that it's not wise or prudent for me to continue in this capacity, obviously I'd step aside.''

In his first extensive public remarks about the energy recommendations his Cabinet-level task force will make to Bush this month, Cheney blamed current shortages on shortsighted decisions in the past.

He said conservation, while perhaps ``a sign of personal virtue,'' does not make for sound or comprehensive policy.

Without going into specifics, Cheney promised ``a mix of new legislation, some executive action as well as private initiatives'' to cope with rising energy prices and growing demand.

He reiterated that the administration intends to push for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge despite strong congressional opposition and rejected the notion of price controls, tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve or creating new bureaucracies.

It will take between 1,300 and 1,900 new power plants over the next 20 years _ or one every week _ just to meet projected increases in nationwide demand, Cheney said.

Alternative fuels are still ``years down the road,'' he said.

``Without a clear, coherent energy strategy for the nation, all Americans could one day go through what Californians are experiencing now, or even worse,'' he said.

Along with additional exploration must come new refineries, Cheney said, noting that it has been 20 years since a large oil refinery was built in the United States.

He also suggested federal initiatives to boost the use of hydroelectric dams and the construction of new nuclear power plants. He called nuclear power ``a safe, clean, very plentiful energy source.''

Although one-fifth of the nation's electricity is nuclear-generated, the industry has not sought a government permit to build a new plant in more than 20 years, since before the accident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island.

In developing hydroelectric power, Cheney said the Bush administration, whose environmental record has been sharply questioned by activists, would be ``mindful of the fish and wildlife affected by manmade dams.''

He put in a good word for coal, which he said remains the most available, most affordable way to generate electric power. The Bush administration has budgeted an additional $150 million for next year _ up from $82 million this year _ to support development of cleaner coal technologies.

On natural gas, Cheney called for some 38,000 miles of additional pipeline and thousands of miles of added distribution lines to bring natural gas into homes and businesses.