Bush: Short Term Conservation Needed

From today's NY Times, in particular, he said:

"We can all pitch in by being better conservers," Mr. Bush said after being briefed on the situation at the Energy Department. "People just need to recognize that these storms have caused disruptions." In addition to urging consumers to cut back, he said federal employees should use carpool and public transport and not take non-essential trips.

Of course, he's talking about short term conservation efforts, but it's nice that he is at least acknowledging that demand is part of the equation too.

At the same time, he's also promising as much from the SPR as is needed and not making any bold gestures at improving long term conservation efforts, or even asking for a return to the 55mph speed limit.

Update [2005-9-26 21:49:0 by ianqui]: The White House released a press release (signed by Bush himself) about this today that's also fun to look at. Specific conservation measures cited by the president include the following:
All agencies should conserve fuel so we can reduce overall demand and allow extra supplies to be directed towards the hurricane relief effort. In particular, agencies should temporarily curtail non-essential travel and other activities that use gasoline or diesel fuel, and encourage employees to carpool, telecommute, and use public transportation to reduce fuel use. Federal agencies should also take action to conserve natural gas and electricity during periods of peak consumption by shifting energy-intensive activities to non-peak periods wherever possible and by procuring and using efficient Energy STAR-rated energy intensive appliances and products.
So, uh, does that mean that government workers can use their newly approved credit card limits of $250,000 to buy Energy STAR products?

From a NYT article called "Here Is Your New Federal Credit Card. Here Is Your New Purchase Limit" (published Sept 18, available on LexisNexis or if you have Times Select):

The government buys everything from warships to paper clips, the latter being an example of a "micropurchase."

Before this month, micropurchasing with government-issued credit cards meant anything up to $2,500 on a single shopping trip, with certain purchases relating to homeland security allowed to reach $15,000 domestically and $25,000 abroad.

On Sept. 8, the definition of "micro" was stretched, by quite a bit. When Congress approved $51.8 billion in Katrina relief, the ceiling on individual purchases with the cards ballooned to $250,000. Overall credit limits can be much greater.

The thought of individual employees able to charge up to a quarter-million dollars per trip with only the plastic in their wallets, directly payable by Uncle Sam, has government watchdogs agog.

"I am astounded," said Danielle Brian, the executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan group that monitors waste and fraud. "This is theoretically a fiscally conservative Republican Congress. I don't get it."

Wouldn't it be ironic if encouraging people to "procure" ENERGY Star products actually ended up being more wasteful of taxpayer money?
Re: "...asking for a return to the 55mph speed limit."  

In making the case for the typical American to join in on energy conservation efforts, it's worth considering that this would probably be an extremely unpopular move.  We should be trying to make conservation an appealing choice, and I think this does the opposite.  Is the gain in fuel efficiency worth it?

I think just rigorously enforcing the speed limit (at 55 or 65) would be enough, but we need something symbolic but effective that really doesn't limit the market forces per se.

I think the efficient speed limit idea works on many levels, and while unpopular at first to some, I think people would ultimately respect that this is a valid response short of a tax or shortages.

It certainly beats closing schools, like they did in Georgia.

But I'm open to other suggestions. What yours PDXpat?

Nothing wrong with enforcing the current speed limits.  But 55mph accross Montana would never fly.  The trend in recent years has been to increase speed limits (e.g., now 70mph in several states).

I think the public would be much more receptive to improved fuel efficiency requirements, which are more obviously associated with conservation in people's minds.  

There was a thought that someone else I know threw out.

Some states have different speed limits for trucks and for cars, and for these purposes they have a legal definition of what constitutes a truck (in his state, I think it was any vehicle over 4 tons).

His suggestion was just to lower the limit to 2 tons.  All of the big SUVs would have to slow down while everyone else zips past them.

Not really a practical suggestion, but still kind of funny to think about.

I don't suppose anyone's still reading this thread, but aren't SUV's trucks anyway for the purposes of emissions and efficiency and safety?

If places like California, which have different speed limits for cars and trucks, had enforced the SUV=truck idea from the start, SUVs would never have taken off.


I hear you CP! Very good point.
I wonder what Kerry would have done by now, if he had won a few more votes in Ohio. I think he would have funded Amtrak, which aids auto-free mobility across the country. That's a better and more important step than just asking for conservation when prices spike.
Simple conservation is never going to be enough; what is needed is recognition of the long term problem... not bland assumptions that technology and exploration will cure all.

Here's a tangental article that puts the situation in a different but very clear light:

OPEC may not be able to meet oil demands
Experts warn of an oil supply crisis in the next two decades

A rapid increase in demand by emerging economies, especially China and India, is responsible for the overall surge in global demand for oil, Herman Franssen, president of International Energy Associates, U.S., told AFP.

"Currently, five billion people in developing countries use two barrels of oil per year, while people in developed nations use 18 barrels per year on average," he said.

If the Chinese and Indians increase consumption from two to four barrels a year, that would cause global demand to rise 85 million bpd, which is the entire world production at present, Franssen said.


If we are "compassionate" in the way we go about conserving, and if we do it in a faith-based manner with strong attention to morals and values, then the higher powers (the markets) will provide ;-) (wink wink)
Step Back, we need to stay the course and we will quickly have this supply disruption in it's last throes. The American way of life is non-negotiable.
Well yes. As my good friend Rummy always says, there are the unknown things that we don't know that we don't know about and therefore we should not know about them. And his buddy George, is always stroking the bunny and saying: I appreciate that you appreciate that we all appreciate with great compassion what our faith based system of guberment will bring great good to those who appreciate being part of our ownership society and it is "important" for those who have suffered deeply to take "comfort" in knowing that we all appreciate that. It is "important" that ya all listen to your guberment officials. It is important to appreciate that.
Video was carried on my local TV news and, I have to say, the President looked pretty uncomfortable while making this surprising admission.
He was probably afraid of what Cheney would do when he learned about it...
I can just see Cheney..."say hello to my little friend..."

(or should it be big friend...?)


(forgive me, my comedic integrity could not pass that one up.)

I am confused by articles like The Last Word: Adnan Shihab-Eldin, wherein he claims "Clearly the prices are driven by concerns over future supply interruptions, geopolitical tensions and natural disasters--which unfortunately have materialized. But we believe that the fundamentals are sufficiently strong to deal with that. At least for crude, supply has been running ahead of demand for the last two years."

How does this work? If a supplier has X to sell on an open market, don't buyers have to want to buy more than X for the scenario Mr. Shihab-Eldin describes to be true? How can panic affect this? Are they buying more than will be ultimately used by consumers? I would think that once enough crude for the segment of time the supply is meant to cover has been purchased, demand for that crude would drop.

The likely explanation is that he is talking through the small aperture on which he sits. At least so the markets judge - they never react to this kind of OPEC pronouncement to any significant degree any more.
The kindest explanation for his late call for conservation is that the gov was worried that pessimism from the top would generate a general downturn in consumer spending and recession.  I could see him showing some discomfort with that risk.

And I suppose that is the real question - whether the general listener will take away an impetus for conservation, or a distrust in the economy.

It would be nice if a little conservation took root in American culture ... but I'm not sure I'm ready to be that optimistic.