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Bush calls on federal agencies to cut energy use

President Bush
President Bush makes comments during a meeting Thursday with energy advisers at the White House.  

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Citing the threat of blackouts this summer, President Bush on Thursday ordered federal agencies in California to cut their consumption of electricity during peak hours.

Bush also said the Defense Department will reduce its use of electricity in peak hours by 10 percent.

The president called on all federal agencies -- not just those in California -- to review their energy usage and report to the White House with recommendations on how they could better conserve.

Bush said that while his focus was on California, the nation is facing a "major problem" on the energy front. He said conservation will be "an integral part" of his national energy policy, but said it would be "naive" to think that reducing demand could solve the problem. He repeated his view that the country needs to find new sources of energy.

"What people need to hear loud and clear is that we're running out of energy in America," Bush said. "And it is so important for this nation to improve its infrastructure so we can not only deliver supplies, but we need to find new supply. And I strongly believe we can do so in an environmentally friendly way."

Bush has come under heavy fire from environmental groups and some Democrats who say he has done too little to promote conservation nationally and has ignored the energy crunch in California.

White House aides disputed the suggestion that the president's announcement Thursday was an attempt to mollify his critics.

The president's directive, administration aides said, will require air conditioner thermostats in federal buildings in California and in areas facing potential electricity shortages to be raised to 78 degrees during Stage 2 and Stage 3 energy alerts. All non-essential lighting must also be shut off, and other equipment, such as escalators, will be shut down.

"This administration is deeply concerned about California and its citizens," Bush said. "We are worried about blackouts that may occur this summer, and we want to be a part of any solutions."

Bush made his comments as he met with some of his energy advisers, including Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Abraham will fly to California to brief state and local officials on the administration's new directive.

Wolfowitz said the 10 percent reduction at military facilities in California will come this summer.

"Ultimately, our investments should make some 200 megawatts of additional power available in California," he said.

CNN White House correspondents Kelly Wallace and Major Garrett contributed to this report.



RELATED STORY:
Bush: No 'short-term fixes" to energy woes (March 19, 2001)

RELATED SITE:
U.S. Department of Energy

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