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Bush lacks energy plan.

Byline: The Register-Guard

President Bush deserves credit for at least acknowledging the obvious: Laying off 32 workers at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., two weeks ago and then reinstating them just before his visit to the lab Tuesday sent "mixed signals" to the American public.

But Bush deserves no credit for blaming the embarrassing situation on an appropriations mix-up. As the president himself observed, "The issue, of course, is whether good intentions are met with actual dollars spent."

So far this week, the president has given four speeches and hit the road to emphasize his hopes of ending this nation's addiction to fossil fuels by developing alternative energy sources such as those pioneered at the Colorado lab. But his "good intentions" have not been matched with either "actual dollars" or serious planning.

Three weeks have passed since the president called for reducing U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil in his State of the Union speech, yet he has not provided a coherent strategy for developing alternative energy sources. Nor has he explained how he intends to pay for the massive effort needed, in his own words, "to make our dependence on foreign sources of energy a thing of the past."

Bush's own budget for the next fiscal year reveals just how serious he really is about addressing this nation's oil addiction. While he has proposed a 22 percent increase in funding for clean-energy technology research - including biofuel, solar and wind energy - most of that increase came at the expense of other efficiency and renewable programs.

In last year's energy bill, Congress authorized more than $1.8 billion for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. Yet the president's budget calls for only $638 million in spending on these programs.

Then there's the matter of federal funding for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is developing the very renewable energy technologies that the president has been promoting. Two weeks ago, 32 workers, including eight researchers, were laid off at the lab as a result of a $28 million federal budget reduction.

Then, last weekend, just before Bush's planned visit, the Energy Department transferred $5 million to the lab - enough money to rehire the laid-off workers and avoid embarrassment during the presidential visit, but not enough to restore the renewable energy programs that had been cut.

If the president is truly serious about weaning the United States from foreign oil, he needs to do more than chat earnestly about alternative fuels and new technologies. He needs to give his full support to proposals in Congress that would provide sufficient federal funding for alternative fuels and that would dramatically strengthen fuel economy standards for gas-guzzling vehicles.

The president should do more than give glowing speeches and provide photo-ops about renewable energy. He should show the nation a detailed, workable and fully funded plan for ending this nation's raging addiction to fossil fuels.
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Title Annotation:Editorials; Budget cuts the same programs he's promoting
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Feb 23, 2006
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