Campaign unveiled to help save energy

Sharp rises in oil, electricity bills forecast


WASHINGTON -- Anticipating soaring energy bills this winter, the Bush administration unveiled a national campaign yesterday to highlight how families, businesses and the federal government can save energy and reduce expenses.

Due to the disruption in oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico caused by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, the Energy Information Administration, which collects and analyzes statistics for the Department of Energy, warned that heating oil expenses could rise 34 percent and electricity bills 11 percent this winter.

In response, the Energy Department is joining the Alliance to Save Energy, a consumer group, to encourage greater use of conservation tactics, such as home insulation and programmable thermostats.

"The situation we are facing is a very different one than we faced in the past," Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman said at a news conference announcing the conservation campaign. "This is in response to significant damage that has been done to the country's energy infrastructure."

To help promote the campaign, the administration will release a series of public service announcements to 4,500 radio stations, identifying easy ways to save energy in the home and gasoline in cars.

One focuses on automobile maintenance and offers driving tips to get the most out of every gallon of gas, such as reducing driving speeds.

The radio broadcasts will feature the Energy Department's cartoon mascot, the Energy Hog, to warn consumers about the dangers of wasting energy.

Though Bodman would not specify how much energy could be saved by adopting the techniques featured in the campaign, Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, said the potential was 50 percent.

"We currently waste about half of the energy we use in this country, so the potential is quite enormous," Callahan said.

To help businesses, the Energy Department will send teams to 200 of the nation's most energy-intensive industrial plants, encouraging them to pursue specific conservation tactics. The department will also deploy similar teams of experts to federal facilities with the same message.

"These teams will help federal agencies and departments fulfill the president's directive that they conserve natural gas, electricity, gasoline and diesel fuel to the maximum extent possible, consistent with the effective discharge of the federal government's duties," Bodman said.

The campaign announcement followed President Bush's comments last week urging Americans to avoid unnecessary car travel and promising to enforce the same guidelines for federal workers.

While the administration is taking steps to prepare the nation for increasing energy costs, the White House still opposes actions that many Democrats and some Republicans find essential, such as higher mileage requirements and stronger energy-efficiency standards for appliances and products.

"High fuel costs are costing people their jobs, their pensions and their businesses," said Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat. Energy conservation "must be more than a convenient slogan," she said.

Emma Vaughn writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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