Official Defends Energy Policy Deputy Secretary Promotes Tips during Argonne Visit

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Byline: Marni Pyke Daily Herald Staff Writer

President Bush wants you to weather-strip your home.

It's just one of a package of conservation tips being offered by top brass in the U.S. Department of Energy who have launched a publicity blitz in the wake of skyrocketing fuel costs facing the nation this winter.

The "Easy Ways to Save Energy" campaign touched down Thursday at Argonne National Laboratory near Darien with an appearance by Deputy Secretary Clay Sell.

Sell talked about the effort to get people to cut back during the energy crunch emerging as a result of damage from hurricanes Katrina and Rita and volatile oil and gas markets.

He also addressed criticisms about the administration's energy policies. Here is an edited transcript:

Q. What can the administration do for people who will have a rough time paying fuel bills this winter?

Al: We're using every resource available to the federal government to do everything possible to get the facilities damaged as part of the hurricanes back on line. We've waived regulatory requirements, released oil from the (strategic petroleum reserve), helped refineries get up and going, moved generators to the pipelines.

Twenty percent of our natural gas comes from the Gulf of Mexico. We're losing a lot of gas out of the inventory - we need to get that back on line.

The second thing we can do is educate the public and tell them what they can do in energy conservation that will have an effect this winter. That's the purpose of my trip.

The third is to ensure low-income heating assistance programs are adequately funded. Just last week, the Department of Health and Human Services released an additional $1.3 billion that will be made available to the states in grants which will eventually get to the consumers.

We need more production in the Gulf; we need more production on the north slope of Alaska. We need to diversify overall our electricity-generation system with clean coal and with more nuclear power.

This week we announced 15 new energy-efficiency standards for industrial equipment - commercial dishwashers, exit signs - those kind of things. There (are) tax provisions for energy-efficient appliances and solar technologies in residential settings and other things on the transportation side for hybrid vehicles.

Q: What about the quote by Vice President Cheney in 2001 saying energy conservation is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy?

A: I believe the intent of the vice president's comment was to say energy conservation alone will not solve our energy problems, and he's absolutely correct on that. Our energy solution was neglected for over a decade. The energy bill signed this August was the first in 13 years.

Q: You mentioned "clean coal," which is a big concern in Illinois because of emissions. New plants don't necessarily use the best technology available to reduce pollution. How can the government reduce harmful emissions?

A: One thing we can do that will have a dramatic effect on air emissions and greenhouse gases is a dramatic expansion of nuclear power. The president called for it four years ago, and that's why I'm here at Argonne. We do a great amount of work here; some of best minds in the world reside at Argonne looking into the nuclear fuel side. …