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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Energy security depends on real alternatives

Don't look now, but what has happened to our nation's energy crisis?

Earlier this year — pre-Sept. 11 — President Bush issued an energy plan that he said would bring the country from a position of great peril to a state of "energy security."

In fact, he said, the idea was to create a state of domestic "energy independence." All this was against the backdrop of electric blackouts in California and rising prices.

Fast forward to today: California's energy shortage has disappeared and that state is saddled with an expensive surplus of power that it cannot sell. World energy prices are down and domestic exploratory drilling is in the doldrums.

Now none of this suggests that we won't have another round of rising prices or energy shortfalls. In fact, that's almost inevitable so long as we apply short-term thinking to what is a long-term problem.

The current Bush plan includes more nuclear power plants and more hydroelectric dams. What community do you suppose is going to be willing to accept a new dam or a nuclear power plant in its backyard? It also contains an ill-considered plan to begin exploratory drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

But it would take as long as a decade to get the Alaska oil on-line, if it proves to be accessible. And at best it would produce a relatively small percentage of our total oil supplies.

In that same 10 years, if we had the will, we could develop a long-term strategy of conservation and alternative energy sources that would do far more for our energy security that any amount of Alaska drilling and nuclear power plants.