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Monday, April 30, 2001

Cheney visits Canada

TORONTO (CP) -- American vice-president Dick Cheney used a visit to Canada on Monday to unveil a U.S. energy strategy that relies on oil, natural gas and nuclear power with no push to develop alternative sources of energy.

"Some things about the future we cannot know; years down the road alternative fuels may become a great deal more plentiful than they are today," Cheney told the annual meeting of The Associated Press.

"But we are not yet in any position to stake our economy and our way of life on that possibility."

Without a solid energy plan, he said, all of the United States could face energy problems like California's, where rolling blackouts have become routine because of energy shortages.

"The aim here is efficiency, not austerity," Cheney said.

Cheney blamed current energy shortages on shortsighted decisions about energy in the past. He said that conservation, while perhaps "a sign of personal virtue," does not make for sound or comprehensive policy.

Saving the specifics -- and the price tags -- for President George W. Bush to review and then announce later this month, Cheney promised "a mix of new legislation, executive action and private initiatives" to cope with rising energy prices and growing demand.

Over the next two decades, it will take between 1,300 and 1,900 new U.S. power plants -- or one every week for 20 years -- just to meet projected increases in nationwide demand, Cheney said.

Cheney, who made millions of dollars as an oil services' company executive, didn't hesitate about placing oil at the centre of his recommendations.

"The reality is that fossil fuels supply virtually 100 per cent of our transportation needs and an overwhelming share of our electricity requirements. For years down the road, this will continue to be true."

The Bush administration wants to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, a controversial plan that could be executed, Cheney said, with very little disruption to the refuge's millions of hectares of natural habitat: "The amount of land affected by oil production would be 2000 acres, less than one-fifth the size of (the Washington area's) Dulles Airport."

Along with additional exploration must come new refineries, Cheney said, noting that it has been 20 years since a large oil refinery was built in the United States.

He also suggested -- but did not specify -- federal initiatives to boost the use of dams to produce hydroelectric power and the construction of new nuclear power plants. He called nuclear power "a safe, clean and very plentiful energy source."

-- Rachel Gibson (, April 30, 2001

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