October 3, 2005

Bush to push Americans to cut energy use

By Tom Doggett

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With U.S. heating fuel bills
expected to soar this winter, the Bush administration on Monday
will unveil a national campaign to show households, businesses
and the federal government how to save energy and reduce their
heating expenses.

The government has warned Americans to get ready for higher
heating fuel bills this winter, due in part to the shutdown of
oil refineries and natural gas processing plants and the
disruption in oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of
Mexico caused by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina.

For consumers who warm their homes with natural gas, their
winter costs would be 52 percent higher nationally from last
year, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The Energy Department's analytical arm forecast heating oil
expenses would rise 34 percent and electricity bills would be
up 11 percent.

U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman and the Alliance to Save
Energy consumer group will announce a joint program on Monday
to encourage Americans to cut back their energy usage and shave
their heating bills.

In three new radio public service announcements, Bodman
will convey the message that consumers "have the power" to
manage their energy bills and use energy efficiency to ease
"the pinch of high energy prices." The ads cover home heating,
gasoline and the purchase of energy-efficient appliances with
the ENERGY STAR label.

One radio spot also encourages consumers to install
sufficient insulation in their homes and use a programmable
thermostat to lower winter heating bills.

Another spot focuses on automobile maintenance and driving
tips in order to get the most out of every gallon of gas.

President George W. Bush has urged Americans to save
gasoline and avoid nonessential trips, in an effort to boost
available motor fuel supplies after the hurricanes.

Democrats on Saturday criticized Bush for not taking
significant more steps to cut U.S. energy use, particularly
reducing America's addiction to oil imports.

"High fuel costs are costing people their jobs, their
pensions and their businesses," said Sen. Maria Cantwell of
Washington in the Democrats' weekly radio address. "(Energy)
conservation must be more than a convenient slogan," she said.

For its part, the Alliance group has developed a database
of state and local tax incentives and programs that support and
encourage energy efficiency.

The database is a "one-stop shop" for a complete listing of
all such laws and programs. Covering all end-use sectors, the
index provides a summary of each energy-efficiency measure with
a link to the legislative text and to useful state contact

Bodman on Wednesday will join Environmental Protection
Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson to launch a national
effort to get consumers to switch to light bulbs that use less
electricity. Nearly 20 percent of U.S. residential electricity
demand goes toward lighting.

For all of 2005, energy expenditures in the United States
are expected to be $1.08 trillion, up 24 percent from last
year, according to the EIA.

That level of expenses represents 8.7 percent of U.S.
annual gross domestic product, the biggest share of GDP since
10.4 percent in 1985, the agency said.

However, the EIA's estimate does not reflect the full
impact of Hurricane Rita, which will likely push total energy
costs even higher for 2005.