Sacrifice sidelined by Bush energy plan


Concepts like sacrifice, rationing, austerity — maybe turn down the air conditioning or even give up the SUV — are missing in President George W. Bush’s plan to deal with America’s energy crunch. They’re missing in Democratic plans, too.

“Conservation,” says Bush, “does not mean doing without.”

Bush’s blueprint relies on more energy supplies and a basket of enticements for greater energy efficiency. In his speech introducing it, he called conservation “the result of millions of good choices made across our land on a daily basis,” and asked for no hard choices in particular.

Rozanne Weissman, speaking for the Alliance to Save Energy, was not surprised.

“Americans do not want sacrifice and deprivation,” she said.

“This administration doesn’t want to look like the Jimmy Carter administration — telling people to turn their thermostats down and then not getting re-elected.”

Congressional Democrats have proposed a variety of steps to shelter Americans from sky-high costs. Like Bush, they don’t question the idea that people can continue to have it all.

“Democrats do not advocate energy policies that will require rationing or reductions in our standard of living,” says the House Democrats’ energy plan.

People must be helped with energy “without having to make large and painful lifestyle changes.”

Some Americans are ready to be enlisted in a national effort, if anyone should ask. “I would try to be a good citizen and work harder,” said Tom Mitchell, 58, in Pasadena, California, the state hit hardest.

“The president has to get the people to conserve by putting in rationing like we did in the ’70s,” Albert Furtek, 80, said in Springfield, Massachusetts.

But leaders want no part of that decade’s gloom, not to mention Carter’s ill fate in the election that followed.

Vice President Dick Cheney, architect of the Bush energy plan, has protested “the impulse to begin telling Americans that we live too well and — to recall the ’70s phrase — that we’ve got to do more with less.”

He said: “The aim here is efficiency, not austerity.”

Selfishness, wastefulness, limits — these are far from Bush’s vocabulary. Although Cheney did not like the phrase as it was used in the ’70s, Bush said it is possible now, through technology, “to do more with less.”

Still, hard choices loom.

Opening a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, as he wants, would mean sacrificing some wilderness.

Keeping it off limits to the oil industry, as many Democrats want, would mean sacrificing a potential energy source.

Bush imposed an energy diet on federal facilities in California early this month, ordering them to cut power use as much as they could. Steps include raising thermostats to 78 degrees for the summer, closing off spare space and turning off escalators when energy shortages in the state are critical.