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Tim Paluch and Zach Calef

In an effort to combat what the White House calls “the most serious energy shortage since the oil embargoes of the 1970s,” President Bush unveiled his national energy policy last Thursday to both criticism and praise.

The plan focuses on more domestic oil and natural gas production, reducing federal regulatory standards to encourage more energy output and recommended the construction of new coal and nuclear power plants.

President Bush claimed the plan “faces up to our energy challenges and meets them.” Does it? We’ll debate and let you decide.

Tim Paluch: There’s nothing like an energy plan from the only Texas oilman who couldn’t find oil. Dubya couldn’t write a limerick about an energy crisis. It looks like the energy companies sat down with Dick Cheney, handed him a 108 page wish list, stuck a blue binder on it, and called it the “Energy Plan.” It is completely bass-ackwards. Claiming to focus on long-term problems, it does nothing to alleviate the depletion of fossil fuel resources. More drilling and higher energy output is not the way to help in the long run. No mentions of alternative fuel sources, like wind or solar power.

Zach Calef: For the most part, the energy plan the president has proposed is a strong one. He is making a tremendous effort to increase the supply of energy in a variety of ways. It does not focus primarily on short-term fixes; instead, the plan looks to fix problems that could damage the nation in the long run. It is important to note we are in a negative energy situation, not an energy crisis. The president’s plan will prevent any sort of a crisis in the future while keeping the interaction between the government and the private sector at a minimum.

Tim: The Bush administration is not truly interested in the long term, as they are claiming. The plan doesn’t enforce any stricter fuel efficiency standards, which is the root of the problem. In 1974, the Department of Transportation, under Nixon, released a study stating that by 2000, technology would be there to allow 50 miles per gallon a minimum for new cars. In 1977, President Carter signed an executive order that would have 40 miles per gallon be the minimum for all cars by today. When Reagan came into office, he scratched that. The average today is 24 miles per gallon. And Dubya doesn’t appear to want to ruffle any oil men’s feathers, either.

Zach: The technology to have more fuel efficient vehicles is already here. The problem is not that the auto makers aren’t making the vehicles; it is the simple fact that most people don’t want them. SUVs are the hot item right now. Most people find these “electric” cars to be ugly and too small to fit the entire family in. If gas prices get high, then naturally, more and more people will not be able to afford to drive these “gas guzzlers.” They will look to buy something that gets them more bang for their buck. Markets work themselves out just fine; it’s basic capitalism.

Tim: If auto makers are forced to produce cars with 40 miles per gallon, then there will be no more “gas guzzlers.” Gas prices can’t get high if the demand isn’t as severe. And the demand won’t be as severe if people don’t need as much gas. That, my friend, is basic capitalism.

Zach: I would have to disagree with your argument that gas wouldn’t get as expensive. The less gas being used, the more the oil companies will charge per gallon. A hurt economy will be felt if new requirements were made. These auto makers would charge more for vehicles that get fifty miles per gallon because they could. When businesses go out and have to spend more on their new vehicles, they have to charge more for their product. Reverse trickle-down kicks in. If it happens gradually, as the market provides, everything would be fine. Besides, how much sense does it make to require Californians to drive electric cars when they don’t have the electricity to cool their homes?

Tim: This so-called “energy” plan is not what it appears. There is just enough enviro-friendly fluff to fool the ignorant and gullible American public, like $10 billion in tax credits for electric hybrid automobiles. In reality, though, this plan revolves around cutting important environmental regulations that cut into the profits of energy companies. Not a big surprise when you look at the Dubya administration. Dubya – oil man; Cheney – oil man; Interior Secretary Gale Norton – coal industry woman. Drilling on environmentally protected federal lands, where we won’t see a drop of oil for seven years, will do nothing but fatten the pockets of big oil.

Bush said in his plan that federal regulations of the nation’s energy producers has “unduly inhibited production and increased prices.” He ordered Norton to “look at any impediments that discourage exploration for oil and gas.” He will revise a portion of the Clean Air Act that requires governmental review of any “modifications of power plants that affect their emissions.” It’s quite sad, really. It recommends drilling in ANWR, Alaska, the Rocky Mountains, and the Gulf Coast. Is nothing safe from the reach of big oil?

Zach: Yes, Tim, the people involved with the energy plan worked in oil and coal. Those are the two major sources of energy in this country. I would much rather have “energy people” devise an energy plan than a group of people who could give a rats about the needs of the country. Arguing that “energy people” shouldn’t make an energy plan is absurd; they are experts on the topic.

To claim “energy people” don’t care about the environment is a bit more than far fetched. It is always a typical argument, but stop and think about it; they have to live here, too. They are looking out for the best interest of the country, not a polar bear.

Tim: Zach, let me put this in words even you can understand. The Exxon Administration doesn’t care about the environment. If they did, they would have developed a responsible energy plan for this “crisis.” There is no help for Californians, who need it most. This, despite what Dubya told the press, is not just a California problem. Neighboring states will bear the burden in bailing those SUV-lovin’ Californians out. If California voted Republican, think Dubya would be leaving them in the dark? I don’t think so.

Any new drilling takes seven years to produce a single barrel, and all estimates in ANWR are equal to a few months of domestic oil consumption. And what about our policy of exporting domestic oil? Will we continue exporting our oil to Japan? This energy policy is a scam wrapped up in a pretty little package. The United States government, including the Clinton Administration, has been on their knees for Big Business, failing to look to the real future of energy use – conservation and alternative fuel. I just hope Dubya crashes and burns.

Zach: When will you liberals wake up and live in reality? Things are going to be the way they are for a while. We will have oil companies, electric companies, and every other type of energy company you can think of for quite some time. Allowing our government to just walk in to even more of the private sector, through things like price caps, is a move in the wrong direction. The Bush administration has been the first in quite some time to actually shrink parts of the government. I applaud them for making efforts to open areas like Alaska for oil exploration. We can drill without destroying the environment and the country will be much better off not relying so heavily on unstable foreign countries for their oil.

Sure, oil companies will benefit from more oil, but so will the American public. The left has this obsession with the evils of corporate America. What they don’t understand is if there were no corporations and other big money makers we would be nowhere near where we are today. We wouldn’t be arguing what kind of cars we should drive, because no one would be able to produce them. Eventually, when needed, they will either invest in alternative fuels or go under when the world’s petroleum supply runs out. Again, let the market work for itself.

Tim Paluch is a junior in journalism and mass communication from Orland Park, Ill. He is opinion editor of the Daily.

Zach Calef is a sophomore in journalism and mass communication from Cedar Rapids. He is news editor of the Daily. Despite his claims to the contrary, polar bears are people, too.