the May 31, 2006 edition -
Bush energy plan whacks conservationMore than a dozen efficiency efforts are set for trims or elimination as the administration pushes long-term projects.
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Even without that breakthrough, the tiny Industrial Technologies Program routinely saves the United States $7 worth of energy for each dollar it spends, proponents say.
So, with energy prices spiking and President Bush pushing for more energy research, the ITP would seem a natural candidate for more funding. In fact, its budget is set to get chopped by a third from its 2005 level. It's one of more than a dozen energy-efficiency efforts that the Energy Department plans to trim or eliminate in a $115 million cost-saving move.. . .
The same fate awaits the $4.5 million Building Codes Implementation Grants program. It helps states adopt more energy-efficient requirements for new buildings, the nation's largest consumer of electricity and natural gas.. . .
One of the nation's priorities is improving the security and reliability of the electric grid. One option for doing that sooner, rather than later, is the emerging technology of "distributed generation." Under that approach, the nation would build more but much smaller power plants so that small businesses and even individual homes could have them.
True, such systems would burn costly natural gas - but at twice the energy efficiency of today's grid - to produce both heat and electricity for homeowners. If such systems caught on, they could vastly reduce load demand on central power stations and slash the need to build new power plants.
But that vision of the future may be delayed, since the DOE's "distributed energy" program has been cut in half and the remainder is being heavily earmarked by federal lawmakers for specific projects that they favor. The program is slated to be terminated in 2008, observers say.
"Hurricanes, terrorism, and blackouts have given us so many reasons to emphasize distributed generation, and instead we're putting emphasis on new forms of centralized power," says John Jimison, executive director of the US Combined Heat and Power Association, a Washington advocacy group. "It's too bad it's getting cut because it was a very modest program."
There may be a glimmer of hope for energy-efficiency programs. The House Committee for Energy and Water Development subcommittee moved last week to restore some funding to ITP and hybrid technology for heavy trucks. The committee voted earlier this month to fully fund the president's $2.1 billion Advanced Energy Initiative.