What energy policy?


PROMOTED WITH great fanfare almost two years ago, the idea of establishing a national energy strategy is dying a slow, agonizing death in Washington.

A proposed policy was put forth earlier this year by Energy Secretary James Watkins. It was an abysmal effort. It said the country should steer a steady-as-she-goes course and rely on fossil fuels and a rejuvenated nuclear power industry in the coming decades. Alternative and renewable sources of energy were given short shrift.

Now the proposal is in the clutches of Congress. Various versions are being debated. But it is becoming apparent that the infighting on this topic could doom a coherent national energy policy.

This cynical viewpoint isn't echoed, naturally enough, by some in the Bush administration and on Capitol Hill. They contend that something will emerge from Washington, if not this year, then next.

So what happens if a national energy strategy isn't forthcoming? The free market still will work. Energy still will be sold in the United States. It might not be as inexpensive as it could be, of course, or as plentiful. That's where a national policy might help.

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