During an appearance at an alternative fuels lab on Feb. 22, George Bush said, “I recognize that there has been some interesting, let me say, mixed signals when it comes to funding.”

George Bush participated in a panel discussion on alternative energy at a federal research laboratory in Golden, Colo., on Feb. 21.

The mixed signals came from Bush, who had quietly undercut his policy of promoting alternative fuels.

The first policy position came verbally and on television, in his State of the Union speech on Jan. 31, when he said, “America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. … [W]e will invest more in zero-emission, coal-fired plants, revolutionary solar and wind technologies and clean, safe nuclear energy.”

But he inconspicuously torpedoed many alternative fuel programs on Feb. 9 in the recommended budget he sent to Congress. While it included increases in some areas—notably biomass, wind, hydrogen, and solar research—it also contained the following:

• Geothermal technology funding was eliminated entirely.

• Hydropower technology funding was eliminated entirely.

• Funding for state energy programs was eliminated entirely.

• A renewable energy incentive was cut.

• An international renewable energy program was cut.

• Tribal energy activities were cut.

• Assistance to homeowners for “weatherizing” was cut.

Of 20 federal alternative energy or conservation programs, Bush recommended cuts in 14.

In addition, while Bush was in Florida verbally expressing his opposition to oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, that opposition bore an asterisk—he opposed drilling only if it took place within a hundred miles of the Florida coast.

And while he verbally opposes oil production royalty waivers and lease waivers instituted by Congress and the Clinton administration, he hasn’t been outspoken on the issue nor forceful in pressuring Congress, causing one oil-state newspaper—the Houston Chronicle—to editorialize, “If President Bush wants to be taken seriously in his call for Americans to reduce their addiction to oil, how can he justify continuing accidental bonus payments to the dealers?”

Bush made the comments about mixed signals at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Just before his visit, White House officials learned that 32 workers had just been laid off from the lab because of budget shortfalls in the current fiscal year. They hastily found funding so the workers could be rehired before Bush’s visit. Lab spokesperson George Douglas told the New York Times, “We’ve never done this before—let people go and then hire them back in two weeks.”

At the lab, Bush seemed to try to blame the “mixed signals” on the congressional appropriations process. “Part of the issue we face, unfortunately, is that there are sometimes decisions made as a result of the appropriations process, where money may not end up where it is supposed to have gone,” he said.

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Dennis Myers

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...