So the Bush Administration energy plan is out, with its accompanying war of spin. (Given the willingness of political reporters to regurgitate spin, the press battle may largely hinge on which side can press their case more effectively, rather than on a reading and review by the nation’s reporters — not that I blame them; I’ve only skimmed the thing myself, because it’s enormous.) I think looking at nuclear power is probably a good thing, but the rest of the plan’s particulars don’t thrill me. There are a number of real, technological solutions to help conserve it, and the government knows it, even if Dick "Conservation may be a personal virtue" Cheney doesn’t. From improved windows to the reuse of waste heat mentioned in the DoE study to this lamp developed at Lawrence Berkeley Labs — what a sweet, viridian piece of consumer technology that is — to something as mundane as exit signs, there are ways we can reduce power consumption without drastic lifestyle changes in this country. Improved lightbulbs alone could dramatically ameliorate power consumption in the West. Instead, from what I’ve read in the energy policy (and seen summarized), it distinctly resembles a coal-and-oil corporate welfare package — hardly surprising, given Bush and Cheney’s ties to the energy industry and industry involvement in the creation of the plan. Throwing environmental regulations out the window, allowing the coal industry free reign (and subsiding them with billions of dollars for "clean coal" research; natural gas may not be a renewable resource, but it’s markedly cleaner than coal and always will be), and putting up a power plant a week while dismissing conservation don’t strike me as sensible and sustainable. Nor are is the subsidizing of the power generation industry a real free-market solution.
But just as BP acknowledged the petroleum industry’s role in global warming, the unity of the American utility industry may be shattered as some companies make at least token efforts to appease environmentally conscious consumers and shareholders (note the AEP spokesman’s comment in this article). The political realities may lag behind the market realities (which may in turn lag the scientific realities), but there are going to be enormous profits available to a few early adopters of green power — natural-gas power generator Calpine is the small end of that wedge.
Until then, I’m just looking to buy one of those swell lamps.