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The BBC's Nick Bryant in Washington
"The fuel crisis in California has led to spiraling electricity prices"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 1 May, 2001, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
Cheney warns of power shortages
US Vice-President Dick Cheney
Mr Cheney says the US faces an impending energy crisis
The United States needs to bring new energy supplies online and must put the economy before the environment, US Vice-President Dick Cheney said on Monday.

Mr Cheney, who chairs a White House committee that aims to formulate a new energy policy, said the US must continue to rely on coal and oil for energy and should consider building new nuclear power plants.

The US "cannot simply conserve or ration our way out of the situation we're in", he said while addressing a meeting in the Canadian city of Toronto.


We are not yet in a position to stake our economy and our own way of life on the possibility of alternative fuels

Dick Cheney
The country must build new oil refineries, power plants and pipelines, find ways of reducing the impact of fossil fuels on the environment, and - most controversially - probably open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Reserve to oil exploration.

The Bush administration has come under criticism from environmentalists for abandoning its commitment to the Kyoto climate-change protocol and for pushing to open the ANWR.

Mr Cheney, a former oil company executive, declined to give specifics of the recommendations he would present to President George W Bush, possibly as early as mid-May.

'Energy crisis'

The vice-president said that America is on the verge of an energy crisis, with drivers facing spiralling petrol prices at the pumps, and the possibility of electricity blackouts at home.

Mr Cheney said there would be no quick fixes, but that the long-term emphasis should be on production rather than conservation.

Windmill farm in California
The US cannot rely on alternate power sources, Mr Cheney said
In order to meet projected energy demands over the next two decades, he said, the country would have to build between 1,300 and 1,900 new power plants - "more than one new plant per week, every week, for 20 years running", he said.

"As a country, we have demanded more and more energy, but we have not brought online the supplies needed to meet that demand," he said.

He downplayed the possibility that alternative fuel sources could replace coal, oil and natural gas.

"We are not yet in a position to stake our economy and our way of life on that possibility," he said.

Alaska

He said that drilling in Alaska - which Congress and environmental campaigners oppose - could take place with minimal disruption to wildlife.

Due to advances in technology, the amount of land affected by oil drilling would be "2,000 acres (800 hectares)", less than the area covered by Washington's Dulles Airport, he said.

Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, Pennsylvania
The Three Mile Island nuclear accident scared many in the US
The Alaska refuge covers 19m acres (7.6m hectares).

He also said that the administration is willing to consider granting permits to construct nuclear power plants, calling nuclear fission "a safe, clean, very plentiful energy source".

About 20% of US power comes from nuclear plants, but no new reactors have been built first time since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.

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See also:

01 May 01 | Business
Is there a US energy crisis?
26 Apr 01 | Americas
US debates nuclear expansion
01 May 01 | Americas
First mile in a marathon
30 Apr 01 | Media reports
World media reviews Bush record
06 Mar 01 | Americas
Dick Cheney - Bush's elder statesman
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