Reid blasts Bush energy policy; vows more money for renewables |

Reid blasts Bush energy policy; vows more money for renewables

EMPIRE, Nev. (AP) – Sen. Harry Reid vowed Tuesday to restore an estimated 40 percent cut President Bush has proposed in federal spending on research and development of renewable energy, including wind, solar and geothermal power.

The Nevada Democrat led federal agency officials, university scientists and media on a tour of a geothermal plant in the high desert 100 miles north of Reno to help boost prospects for renewable energy in the state while at the same time blasting what he calls the ”shortsighted” energy policies of the Bush administration.

”Bush and Cheney don’t believe in renewable energy and I think that is a mistake,” said Reid, who next week will become the second-ranking member of the Senate behind Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

”We have an ongoing battle with the Bush administration because they think the only way to solve the energy crisis is to drill in ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) and do more offshore drilling for oil,” he said.

Vice President Cheney especially ”belittles conservation,” Reid said. ”The things they belittle are the things we need to do.”

Reid, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the proposed cut in the Energy Department’s renewables programs is ”one of the biggest surprises” in Bush’s budget blueprint.

”That will never stand,” the senator said. ”We will increase it, not cut it back.”

The Energy Department has identified Nevada, California and Utah as the three states with the greatest potential to utilize geothermal energy, tapping the hot water beneath the earth’s surface to heat other sources and power turbines.

Some of that power is produced as a result of hot magma below the earth’s crust but most results from the hot water bubbling upward through faults associated with mountain ranges.

Curtis Framel, an Energy Department official who works out of DOE’s regional Seattle office on an eight-state strategy for developing geothermal power, was among those who joined Reid on Tuesday’s helicopter and walking tour of the plant.

He confirmed the Bush budget would cut about 40 percent from last year’s $450 million budget for research and development of renewable energy.

Backers of renewables within the DOE are working with Reid and others to try to restore some of that money.

”Senator Reid has been very instrumental in making sure that money gets back into the budget,” Framel said.

”Particularly with the crisis out here in the West, we are part of the solution, we are not part of the problem. There’s some horse-trading going on now and I’m not sure the status of that,” he said.

Framel is headed to a conference at Boise State University later this week entitled the ”Idaho Geothermal Energy Stakeholders Workshop.” Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, is among the participants.

”The Senators in the West are very aware of the energy they have here. It is not fossil fuel. It is the wind and the sun and the power of the earth,” Framel said.

Reid invited officials from the DOE, Bureau of Land Management and University of Nevada-Reno on the tour of the Empire Foods plant where 305-degree water tapped from neighboring hot springs is used to power the driers for processing dried garlic and onions at a cost far below that of natural gas-fired driers.

In use since 1994, the facility dries about 16,000 pounds of onions and 12,000 pounds of garlic per hour, Empire Foods plant manager Carl Hearn said.

The company spends $40,000 to $50,000 a month on energy costs, he said.

”If we used natural gas like our competitors it would cost us four to five times as much,” he said.

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