Science, Tech & Environment

A look at US energy policy

We're stuck in our dependence on oil and that's the root of our problem. The Bush administration's energy policy calls for sustaining the status quo: relying on oil as our major source of oil and this is reflected in all kinds of tax breaks and incentives for increased oil drilling and increasing our reliance on overseas sources of energy. The US does turn to Canada and Mexico, but they're declining as suppliers of oil, so increasingly we have to turn to Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East. (So what was the idea behind keeping the status quo?) The rationale is that the US is reliant on petroleum for transportation and to keep the economy moving we need oil. Others would say we have a strong political influence of the oil industry�Cheney and Bush come from that industry. (So if the US energy policy has this reliance on oil, compare that to similarly developed countries.) The Europeans have been trying for decades from moving away from this dependence on oil, partly because they worry about the disruption in the Middle East. They use tax policy and oil is heavily taxed in Europe and as a result European drivers prefer diesel-powered cars and smaller cars. Secondly they use that tax money to build more efficient public transit systems. All of the European countries are also moving towards alternative sources of energy. France emphasizes nuclear power, Germany emphasizes natural gas and solar and wind power. (Germany's reliance on these alternative sources, what does that policy look like on the ground?) Travelers to Europe will see a large number of wind mills and solar panels. These are everywhere. (Are they subsidized?) Yes, in various ways, tax breaks and otherwise. (When we talk about energy conservation, is that something a government would promote or is that something individuals would do?) We've had examples where the government stepped in and made huge steps in energy conservation, most notably in 1973 and 1974 when there was the oil embargo. Congress could do that again.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the audio to hear it.)