Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Election Day is less than one month away, and with oil topping $50 a barrel it is more important than ever for American voters to be clear on where the candidates stand on issues. The fundamental difference between President Bush and John Kerry is perhaps best exemplified by their approaches to protecting America’s energy future.

Mr. Bush has a comprehensive national energy policy to protect consumers and our economy, whereas Mr. Kerry only has a vague outline that is woefully short on details. Mr. Bush has worked hard to enact comprehensive energy legislation, whereas Mr. Kerry has worked hard to stop that legislation from being enacted.

Mr. Bush’s national energy policy is a broad combination of actions which together will protect our energy future through increased energy production, efficiency, conservation and research and development. The 170-page energy policy has 104 specific action items. You can read it on the Web at

On the other hand, Mr. Kerry has no such comprehensive energy plan, preferring to address the issue only in vague generalities. His energy “plan” has five recommendations, all of which fit on one page. His Web site says he will explore and develop new energy sources, develop tomorrow’s technology today and make America independent of Middle East oil. But voters are left to wonder what exactly that means.

Mr. Kerry is blaming the war in Iraq for the run-up in oil prices, but that simply does not jibe with the facts. Today, Iraq’s oil exports are back to their prewar levels. So, what is the real problem underlying the current oil-price increase? The old-fashioned laws of supply and demand. Prices are higher because of inadequate energy production in the face of a growing economy, which is leading to overdependence on Middle East oil.

And what is the solution? Comprehensive energy legislation that boosts domestic energy production — the very legislation that Mr. Kerry and his running mate have succeeded in stalling in the Senate.

That stalled legislation addresses just about every aspect of our energy picture. It includes promoting renewable energy such as wind and solar, advancing clean-coal technology, using ethanol from U.S.-grown corn, advancing environmentally clean hydrogen fuel, encouraging energy efficiency and conservation and protecting our electric grid from another blackout. It makes you wonder what the situation would be today if Mr. Kerry had supported enactment of energy legislation.

Even though Mr. Kerry has succeeded in stalling the energy legislation, Mr. Bush has moved forward with other important initiatives for increasing the long-term energy supply. For example, the president’s ongoing hydrogen initiative is designed to address two problems simultaneously, energy supply and environmental protection. Hydrogen is the cleanest fuel known to man. Its only emission is water. It could be used as a fuel for cars, homes and businesses.

Another ongoing Bush administration initiative is FutureGen, which is a $1 billion public-private partnership to create the world’s first zero-emissions coal power plant through carbon sequestration. FutureGen’s goal is to generate electricity, produce hydrogen, and sequester greenhouse-gas emissions from coal at the same time. The United States is the Saudi Arabia of coal. If we can develop the technology that allows U.S. coal to be used with few if any emissions, our energy future can be secured.

The administration’s FreedomCAR initiative will develop technologies needed to enable hydrogen to be used as a motor fuel in stead of petroleum. For the environment, this program means cleaner air — the only exhaust is water — which will be a monumental advance. It is also worth noting that last year the Bush administration required a major increase in the fuel economy of light trucks, which is expected to result in savings of approximately 3.6 billion gallons of gasoline and the avoidance of 31 million tons of carbon-dioxide emissions.

When you compare the candidates’ records on energy, it becomes clear that the president has a solid approach to securing America’s energy future. Mr. Kerry, on the other hand, has only a vague outline. The president has proven his leadership and vision on this issue that is important to consumers, business and our economy.

Andrew D. Lundquist is the former director of the president’s National Energy Policy Development Group.

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