A year after warning that America was addicted to oil, President Bush is expected to renew concerns about energy security in his State of the Union address tomorrow night.
But despite his positive rhetoric, little has changed over the last year and little is expected to radically change during the next.
The Associated Press argues that the president is expected to take a predictable path, urging expanded use of ethanol in gasoline, more research into cleaner burning coal and on gas-electric “hybrid” cars, and greater nuclear energy. The President remains opposed to mandatory cuts in CO2, despite what you might have read in the papers and on this blog.
But when it comes to weaning the country away from oil, the president’s critics say his rhetoric has not been matched by action. Bush has cut renewable fuel and conservation budgets. The Energy department’s requests for renewable fuel and conservation programs have stayed flat at about $1.18 billion annually over the past six years – really a decline if inflation is considered.
What the Administration has done is promote nuclear and ethanol. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman recently cited the president’s $2.1 billion “advanced energy initiative”, but most of that program goes for nuclear research and clean coal technology
Bush has supported lawmakers’ push to use more corn-based ethanol as a gasoline blend and he is expected to call for a sharp escalation of ethanol use in his speech. But even here, the administration has been criticized for not living up to the rhetoric.
In last year’s State of the Union speech, Bush announced a goal to make a “new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years.” His administration followed within days with a budget calling for only a modest increase – about $29 million – for research into cellulosic ethanol development.
And a year on, a report by the General Accountability Office concluded “it is unlikely” that the government’s current research and development programs will provide the alternative energy sources needed to “reverse our growing dependence on imported oil.”
So will anything really change so long as Bush is in office?