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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Energy Conservation

Air Date: Week of

To address the energy crunch following the hurricanes, President Bush has asked Americans to cut down on their energy consumption. Living on Earth takes to the streets to hear how people are heeding the call. Host Steve Curwood also talks with New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller about what the White House is doing to curb its own energy use.


CURWOOD: The leaks and destruction in much of the Gulf Coast oil industry has led to such sharp price hikes and shortages that, for the first time since the 1970s, an American president has issued a general call for energy conservation.

BUSH: We can all pitch in by using…by being better conservers of energy. I mean, people just need to recognize that these storms have caused disruption and that if they're able to maybe not drive on a trip that’s non-essential, that would be helpful.

CURWOOD: We took to the streets of Boston to hear how people are heeding the president's conservation call.

MAN 1: I’m always trying to conserve anyway. That’s a new kind of policy with the administration.Seems kind of obvious, too. It seems that in 2005 it’s kind of late to suggest this.

MAN 2: I feel offended, you know, in some ways. I feel like – it seems like he’s using this as a way to show that he’s being energy conscious and not…without really being energy conscious. You know, “well, see, I’m doing it for the storm victims, and I’m doing it when we really need it and when it’s an emergency.” But we’ve got an existing emergency for the last, you know, 100 years. (LAUGHS)

MAN 3: I actually saw a statistic – I think the majority of car trips are under a mile or something? It’s just an outrageous number. And so I use a bicycle whenever I can. I’m fortunate, I use public transportation, and just look myself in the mirror every day and just say, you know, you’re responsible.

WOMAN 1: They should conserve and sacrifice. Remember years ago what people had to go through in the Great Depression and everything? These young kids don’t understand this. It could happen to us again.

MAN 4: Well, I bike, mostly anyway, I take public trains – I’m not sure what more I could do. I mean, my car’s been sitting there with a full tank of gas for about a month and a half, so, you know. But it’s not because of him, of course. It’s ‘cause of the gas prices. But, no, I don’t think I’ll change in response to President Bush.

MAN 5: Most likely I won’t change, ‘cause I’m geared to a lifestyle. We live in America. So, no, I can’t. If I try to save gas, what, am I not gonna go to work? Not make any money?

WOMAN 2:We are trying to cut down a little bit.I own a three family house and we’ve talked about it and we are going to try… none of us are gonna put our heater on until we absolutely have to and we’ll try and conserve in whatever way we can.

WOMAN 3: I guess I could not run the water while I brush my teeth, and little things like that. Like, I don’t have to drive to school. I can bike or take the bus or walk, and stuff like that. So, little things.

MAN 7: Let me know if he shuts the bathroom light off at his house. (LAUGHS). All right? Let’s see how he does things.Then maybe we’ll think about doing things our way.

CURWOOD: That's the talk on the street. To hear the chatter within the West Wing, we turn to Elisabeth Bumiller, who covers the White House for the New York Times. Elisabeth, hello.


CURWOOD: Now, we’ve heard the president’s call for conservation. What kind of changes have you seen at the White House in the way of conservation measures?

BUMILLER: Well, the most noticeable is that the temperature throughout the West Wing is up two degrees, to an average of about 72. And there’s also a program underway that White House staffers who turn in their coveted White House parking passes get free fare on the Washington Metro subway system.

CURWOOD: Now, you’ve been talking to some of the White House senior staffers about their habits, as I understand it, and I’m wondering what they’ve told you. What did Karl Rove, the White House Deputy Chief of Staff, tell you when you asked him –

BUMILLER: Well, he didn’t actually respond. I asked him how he was conserving and he sent me an email back asking me how I was conserving . So, actually, the Education Secretary, Margaret Spellings, said that she works so hard she never goes anywhere for personal reasons anyway.


BUMILLER: Now, the Treasury Secretary, John Snow, did take the train last week to New York on Wednesday. And his spokesman told me that we actually discussed it, he said, he and the Treasury Secretary, and they thought well, if there’s a week to take the train, this is it.

CURWOOD: A week. How long do you think this is going to persist in the White House folks’ minds?

BUMILLER: I have absolutely no idea. I can tell you that one thing the president did when he traveled is that – this is a very small thing – but he reduced the size of his motorcade,down by about two cars or so, or two vans. Again, I don’t know how much difference that makes, but is a very long motorcade, and it’s something, right? On the other hand, this is the same motorcade that, because of security reasons, he has to get into and travel, you know, several hundred yards. So, here he could be walking but because of security he has to get this 15-car caravan.

CURWOOD: Elisabeth Bumiller is the White House reporter for the New York Times. Elisabeth, thanks for speaking with me today.

BUMILLER: Well, thank you for having me. I enjoyed it.



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