Recon

Mixed signals on energy

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A week after President Bush declared we’re “addicted to oil” in his State of the Union address, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory laid off 32 employees due to a $28 million budget shortfall. ••• Two weeks later, Bush visited the lab and restored $5 million in funding, explaining, “I recognize that there has been some interesting mixed signals.” ••• Bush’s energy plan aims to replace 30% of gasoline use with ethanol by 2030. ••• Archer Daniels Midland, the world’s largest producer of ethanol from corn, has given more than $3 million to politicians since 2000. ••• A recent Cornell study found that refining corn-based ethanol burns 29% more fossil-fuel energy than the amount of energy that is produced. ••• In 2005, oil companies received $2 billion in tax credits for adding ethanol to their gasoline. ••• The average new car sold in the U.S. is 5% less fuel efficient than a car made in the late ’80s. ••• Raising fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon would save more oil by 2017 than the total projected output of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. ••• Bush has proposed an 11% budget cut for a program to reduce the federal government’s energy use. ••• Less than 2% of oil is used for generating electricity; coal provides half of the nation’s electric power. ••• While pledging to invest more in “zero-emission coal-fired plants,” Bush has proposed slashing overall funding for clean coal by 12%. ••• In 2001, the administration weakened efficiency standards for air conditioners, which could have saved as much energy as that produced by 60 power plants over the next 25 years. ••• When asked that same year whether our voracious energy appetite was to blame for high gas prices, then-White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, “That’s a big no…the American way of life is a blessed one.”

MAY/JUNE 2006 | MOTHER JONES 23

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