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NEWSROOM for May 21, 2001

Aired May 21, 2001 - 04:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: Seen in classrooms the world over, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And welcome to NEWSROOM Monday. I'm Shelley Walcott.

MICHAEL MCMANUS, CO-HOST: And I'm Michael McManus. It's an energetic day on NEWSROOM. Let's take a look at what's coming up.

WALCOTT: Our top story, the continue U.S. energy woes. NEWSROOM takes a look at two sides of a White House plan.

MCMANUS: In the "Environment Desk," we look at young people furthering the cause of a movement started 30 years ago.

WALCOTT: Then in "Worldview," we discover an ancient Tibetan art.

MCMANUS: Finally, a return to energy and a look at the history of energy consumption.

WALCOTT: United States President George W. Bush defends his new national energy strategy as a plan designed to help American families and the environment. In his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush laid out plans to prevent more widespread blackouts like the ones California faces this summer.

When it comes to energy, President Bush and the Democrats agree costs are way too high. The problem is they can't agree on how to lower them. Mr. Bush says energy production can be increased while protecting the environment. His plan, which would be enacted through presidential executive orders, federal agency and departmental regulations as well as Congressional legislation, focuses on many possible long-term solutions.

Under the president's two pronged plan, there would be an expansion of U.S. coal, oil and nuclear power production along with conservation incentives. The president says most of the nation's new electric power plants would be fueled by "clean and safe natural gas or by wind, solar, nuclear or hydropower."

The president's plan provides $4 billion in tax credits for consumers who purchase fuel efficient cars. Many Democrats, however, are demanding immediate relief for the California power crisis, such as imposing temporary price caps on high priced wholesale electricity.

Democrats plan to begin airing television spots in California this week denouncing President Bush's energy policy. It's part of a larger campaign against the administration's proposals. On the Republican side, Vice President Dick Cheney is leading the charge for Mr. Bush's energy plan. Patty Davis looks at the political battle that's shaping up over energy.


PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eager to sell President Bush's new energy policy, administration officials came out in full force Sunday, appearing on all five network news programs.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As long as we do things or pursue policies that don't increase the supply, then what we'll find on the other end is inadequate supply and spiking prices.

CHRISTIE WHITMAN, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: We have to have more domestic production.

DAVIS: The administration argues its proposal to expand oil, gas and nuclear power production is balanced with its call for billions of dollars in tax credits for renewable energy, an aggressive counter to environmental criticism of the administration's energy plan.

CHENEY: 11 out of the 12 recommendations the Sierra Club made are covered in the Bush set of recommendations. I can only conclude they are not really serious about engaging on the issue, they're much more interested in trying to flog the issue.

DAN BECKER, THE SIERRA CLUB: I don't know what 12 points the vice president is pointing to, but the bulk of his plan helps the polluters. It does not help the American people.

DAVIS: The administration's full-court press comes as it prepares for a major fight over its energy plan in Congress. The White House is trying to defect criticism that its proposals do nothing to help California, blaming the energy crunch on the state's Democratic governor.

CHENEY: They knew over a year ago they had a problem, and Gray Davis refused to address that problem.

DAVIS: But Democrats are going on the offensive with a targeted ad campaign beginning Monday in the Golden State.


NARRATOR: President Bush has offered no relief to hard-pressed rate payers.


DAVIS: Critics also point to the administration's ties to the energy industry. Those ties will be on display this week, at a national Republican Party fund raiser. Some of industry's top lobbyists are sponsoring the event.

(on camera): Meanwhile, consumers want to know when they will get some relief from high prices at the pump, the White House says soon, as it tries to deflect calls in Congress to reduce the federal gas tax.

Patty Davis, CNN, Washington.


MCMANUS: Concern about the U.S. fuel supply is probably most apparent in California. Since January, high energy demands coupled with threatened fuel supplies have triggered a steady stream of power alerts and rolling blackouts. Not all Californians, however, are feeling the crunch. Since the early 1980s, the state has encouraged the use and development of so-called alternative energies to help relieve some of the drain on resources. NEWSROOM'S Janice McDonald reports.


JANICE MCDONALD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sacramento, California: capital of the state, role model for the world? A full 20 percent of the city's power comes from the sun, wind, water and geothermal pull -- in other words: renewable resources or so-called alternative energy, a fact that has won the local utility international recognition and awards.

COLIN TAYLOR, SACRAMENTO MUNICIPAL UTILITY DISTRICT: I don't think we like to use fossil fuels. I don't think they're particularly good for the environment.

MCDONALD: Colin Taylor works for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District -- or SMUD. SMUD is owned by its customers, who encourage the utility to draw from green power, power generated from non-polluting resources. The utility currently leads the U.S. in energy production from photovoltaic cells, an updated and more efficient alternative to solar panels.

TAYLOR: They are the roof as well. So if you install these on your roof, you don't need to install anything else. And one of the things we're trying to do is to get housing developers to install these cells as part of the house itself when they originally build it. So a homeowner in Sacramento could buy a house with solar cells on the roof.

MCDONALD: SMUD helps pay for the cells to encourage more people to use them. Such cost-sharing for installing alternative fuel devices is prevalent throughout the state. Take this windmill: The state covered half its cost.

JOE GUASTI, WIND TURBINE OWNER: Since it's producing more than I need, I can also use it. I can divert my gas loads to electric loads. And so that's been fun. And it -- it's kind of enjoyable to leave some lights on and not feel guilty about just burning up all that power.

MCDONALD: In fact, Joe Guasti, electric meter often runs backwards, allowing him to bank power for later use. The same can happen in solar homes. A contractor by trade, Guasti, was so impressed that he's now selling windmills.

GUSTY: These are -- these are all the current customers -- people that have applied to the California Energy Commission for their buy-down money that pay for half of their machines.

MCDONALD Wind turbine manufacturers say their business is growing 20 to 40 percent a year.

BOB GATES, ENRON WIND: In today's world, at the high natural gas prices, wind energy is actually cheaper than gas. And because of environmental concerns, most people think it's a good thing to make electricity from the wind and not have emissions going into the air.

MCDONALD: Commercial wind farms like these dotting the hills near Palm Springs now provide 2 percent of the state's energy, a figure expected to rise over the next few years. In a year, one 600 kilowatt machine can generate enough power for 600 people, and, at the same time, save the use of more than 34,000 barrels of oil.

STEEN AAGAARD, SPECIALIZED TURBINE SERVICES: I think it makes good business sense to rely on wind. It will not go up in cost. Once you install the part, it is pretty much paid for and you have power that will not pollute. You don't have any byproducts.

MCDONALD: It helps that California's geography is well suited to a variety of alternative energies. Just north of Napa Valley, where geothermal pools bubble and steam, the ground is tapped to harness the steam.

(on camera): Geothermal exploration is not unlike exploration for oil and gas. Here, too, it takes a geologist to determine where the resources are located..

(voice-over): In fact, the numerous steam wells resemble their oil counterpart. This 30 square-mile area is crisscrossed with miles and miles of pipes snaking their way to power plants where the steam is converted to energy: clean, cheap and renewable. But the wind doesn't always blow. The sun doesn't always shine. And geothermal also has its drawbacks.

JAN STEWART, CALPINE: The only problem is, its limitations are that it has to be located in a geographic area that accommodates itself to being tapped to make electricity using geothermal energy. So it's not as widespread as say, fossil fuel or coal plants are in this country, but it is certainly a viable alternative.

MCDONALD: Some homeowners have found that their best alternative is to use power from the utility's grid, but use a system that limits it.

MIKE ERICSON, GEOTHERMAL ENGINEER: We're standing on a series of pipes that are drilled 200 feet into the earth. Within those pipes, we circulate water. That water picks up the heat and transfers it to machinery that's within the house.

MCDONALD: This system is called a geothermal pump. It brings heat into the house during the cold months and extracts it during the hot months.

ERICSON: This system is -- other than running the lights, this provides all the mechanical requirements for Fred's homes.

FRED CORSON, HOME OWNER: Even though this system had a higher up front cost, the annual savings for operations were so great that the total system turns out to be significantly lower cost in total than a conventional system.

MCDONALD: Long-time industry watcher Donald Aitken predicts that, with the growing energy crisis, more people will learn to understand the true value of green energy.

AITKEN: If you look at any time scale, the world was powered by renewable energy into this century. And next century, it will be powered by renewable energy again. The alternative energy resources are the temporary use of oil, gas and coal. The basic, stable, sustainable energy resources are the ones we did use and the ones we will use.

MCDONALD: Janice McDonald, CNN Newsroom, Berkeley, California.


MCMANUS: Our environment theme continues in today's "Desk." Last April, a Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans agree with the environmental movement's goals. What do you think? Is your environment being protected? What are you doing to help?

Well, NEWSROOM'S Jason Bellini hit the road to get some answers to those very questions.


JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Adam Werbach in his buttoned-down collared shirt is one of the young faces of today's environmental movement. And he's also a veteran of it. The 27-year- old former president of the Sierra Club received an invitation to speak at Portland College.

ADAM WERBACH, FORMER PRESIDENT, SIERRA CLUB: I don't know this as a really active school so this is going to be one of those -- well, we'll see. It's going to be a challenge, I think, to figure out if we can get these people going or not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So how'd we do on the streets?

BELLINI: Hocking their handmade, tie-dyed Mother Earth T-shirts, a new campus environmental club is taking a modest stab at producing Portland College's first Earth Week celebration -- their bike parking lot, the main attraction.

CHRIS SPARKS, STUDENT: Just trying to get people to ride their bikes instead of drive, sort of promote different ways of transportation.

GINGER EMRICK, STUDENT: We don't want to be activists that scare people away. When people think of activists, they think of, I don't know, people that are kind of rude and out there and in your face activists.

BELLINI: This is not your hippie father's environmental movement. The first Earth Day in 1970, the dawn of the modern environmentalism movement was a flamboyant, psychedelic, counter cultural explosion. Thirty-one years later, the sons and daughters of the movement's founders are less radical and less visible.

MARK HERTSGAARD, ENVIRONMENTAL AUTHOR: There was a lot more political ferment on campuses 30 years ago then there is today. However, I think it's a mistake to think that young people today are somehow politically uninterested.

BELLINI (on camera): But why did you start the group?

SPARKS: Why? Because there's no group there and changes can be made.

BELLINI: What are the changes you've been able to find?

SPARKS: Like in terms of concrete changes, we're saying, you know, shower heads are leaking, we water the grass when it rains, you know, 250 days a year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I agree. Open a logging center. Ultimately, I think that this whole environmental movement is going to move to the biggest frontier and like it's going to take businesses.

WERBACH: I mean you just nailed it. It's like if you can use the institution that exists to create change then it's so much easier than breaking down all these decisions.

BELLINI: Many environmentalists say that in the '90s the sympathetic presidency dulled their roar even as more scientists pointed to the dangers of global warming, air and water pollution and the extinction of species. At the same time, however, many of these same young activists hope a new president, who they perceive as hostile to the environment, will re-energize the movement.

WERBACH: When there's change back, in fact, to some of the emotionalism and some of the righteous and some of the faith, that was actually at the core of the environment's movement when it was founded.

BELLINI: After delivering his speech, Adam sat down with the organizers of the fledgling environmental group. They discussed a strategy for this Catholic school. He advises these Portland college students to partner with religious leaders. WERBACH: This is their movement. I mean God, it's -- I mean it -- and 50 million Americans believe that the Bible is written by the hand of God. This is a religious nation and religion needs to be put to this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now, what we're trying to do is just show people that we're here. You know, like maybe not that many more people are going to ride their to school but just having that presence here and having people -- I mean a lot of people came up to us today. And we're just like hey, what's going on.

BELLINI: They may not yet know where to go from here or how to take on the giant global issues they're concerned about. For now, they just want their Earth Week to be one worth repeating.

Jason Bellini, CNN, Portland, Oregon.


WALCOTT: You heard about the environmental movement in our "Daily Desk" earlier. Well, we'll have more on the environment in "Worldview" and we'll also focus on business and culture. Find out how France is harvesting grapes for a new use and discover the ancient art of Tibetan sand painting. Plus, say hello to a furry little creature called a wombat.

MCMANUS: Our destination today, a place that's both a country and a continent. Yeah, you guessed it, that's Australia, the land down under. Australia is the most isolated of all the continents. It's also the flattest and the driest. Much of the country is desert or semi-arid. You're probably familiar with Australia's unusual menagerie of animals, everything from the koala to the kangaroo.

Well, today, we turn our attention to the wombat, an animal related to the koala. The furry mammal is a marsupial. That means it's an animal with a pouch to carry its young. Wombats eat grass, bark and roots and live in the forest or grasslands. But these days, they're wondering from their natural habitats in search of food, and that's causing problems, as Melanie Horrill explains.


MELODY HORRILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They look like the trenches and shell craters of a WWI battlefield, but in fact this is a farm on our far west coast. The destruction has been caused by a shy, furry creature known as the southern hairy-nosed wombat.

DAVID STOT (ph): It's amazing what, how such a small animal can dig a hole like that.

HORRILL: Thousands have converged on David Stot's farm, their burrows forming labyrinths beneath his prime paddocks.

STOT: The animals will just sort of burrow under the fence.

HORRILL: It cost thousands to fix the problems they create. Even roads aren't exempt from the wombat's fervent digging, the huge holes creating potential death traps.

STOT: This one's burrowed into the soil of the road and thrown a big mandean (ph) across the road.

HORRILL: The region's been hit by its worst drought in 40 years, forcing the wombats to look for food outside their normal habitat.

STOT: They're drawing on this neighbor after a hectare in their hole.

HORRILL: And they have no natural predators since the construction of the dingo fence.

(on camera): Currently, farmers are trying to control the wombat population by shooting them or filling in their holes. But landowners claim these measures simply aren't effective enough.

(voice-over): Farmers believe poison would be the best weapon, having been successfully used to control rabbits before the kalesi (ph) virus.

STOT: We thought with similar (UNINTELLIGIBLE) would, this would be effective here because if you just (UNINTELLIGIBLE) around every hole.

HORRILL: But the government won't allow it, saying none of the poisons currently available would kill the animals humanely. So for now, farmers will have to learn to live with their unwelcome guests.

Melody Horrill, 10 News.


WALCOTT: Tibet is considered an autonomous region of China. Once a powerful kingdom on its own, it fell under Chinese control in the early 18th century. In 1911, Tibet regained its independence, but in 1950, China invaded again. At that time, an agreement was drawn up to give Tibet self-government and freedom of religion. However, unrest and friction have continued as Chinese rule became more repressive.

Tibetan art and culture are both highly religious. Tibetan Buddhism holds the Dalai Lama as both temporal and spiritual leader. Following a Chinese crackdown, the Dali Lama went into exile in 1959 and some of his followers have also fled to practice their religion and spread their culture around the world.

Molly Thomas takes a look at one Tibetan art, sand painting.


DHARGYAL, TIBETAN BUDDHIST MONK (through translator): There was certainly a great risk losing life or getting captured by Chinese police. I had to come through the mountains, and I had to walk for many days. MOLLY THOMAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Over decade ago, Buddhist monk Dhargyal fled from Tibet after having faced discrimination, he says, from the local authorities who favored the Han population. Dhargyal was also pained by the lack of religious freedom and feared he was being watched.

DHARGYAL (through translator): You have a constant sense of being watched. You cannot say or do anything as a Tibetan without having that fear.

THOMAS: Moreover, Dhargyal couldn't continue his religious studies. He decided he had to leave and settled in a monastery in southern India. His story is dramatic but it is not rare, says Tibetan monk Lobsang Tenzin.

GESHE LOBSANG TENZIN, TIBETAN SCHOLAR, EMORY UNIV.: And there are times that some -- many of the young Tibetans attempting to escape, they lose their lives or get caught by the border police and put into the prisons.

THOMAS: Tenzin teachers at Emory University in Atlanta and also a Buddhist monk. Recently, he invited Dhargyal and nine other to pay a visit to the campus so that students there could better understand the Tibetan culture.

There was chanting to be heard and unique art work displayed, such as sand painting. This is called a mandala and is made from colored crushed sand. It's described as a sort of prayer for the Buddha of boundless life, and the design takes five days to finish. Once completed, the mandala is swept up and scattered in a river.

TENZIN: It is a kind of symbolic gesture to send energies for the whole planet.

THOMAS (on camera): Sand painting, like most Tibetan Buddhist customs, is forbidden by Chinese authorities in Tibet. But the monks hope that by demonstrating the religious ceremonies for people in other countries, their rich heritage will not be lost.

(voice-over): This has become increasingly difficult, as authorities continue to keep a tight rein on religious practice and encourage Han Chinese elsewhere to relocate in Tibet.

TENZIN: A very systematic approach on the part of China to completely eliminate any chances for regaining freedom or even the survival of the Tibetan identity.

THOMAS: The Chinese deny that they are squeezing out the Tibetan population. But either way, the monks visiting Emory hope the art work will, at the very least, heighten awareness for their homeland.

DHARGYAL (through translator): Not only for myself, for many people who are in Tibet, they should also have freedom to be themselves and to grow and live with basic human rights, practice and be Tibetans. THOMAS: Dhargyal tells me he would like to return home someday, where his six brothers, two sisters and elderly mother still live. But he doubts the authorities in Tibet would ever let that happen.

Molly Thomas, CNN.


WALCOTT: Next stop, France, a European nation bordering the Mediterranean Sea. France is an important economic and political power in the world, and a cultural leader as well. Agriculture is big business and primary crops include wheat and sugar beets. Wine is another well known product. In fact, only Italy produces more wine than France.

But the lush vineyards of France are turning out grapes for more than beverage production these days. Instead of grapes of wrath, try grapes of bath.

Denise Dillon has more.


DENISE DILLON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Set amid acres of vineyards in France's wine country, you'll find the vino therapy center. It features one of the latest ways to fight aging.

DELPINE DU FOUR, SPA DIRECTOR (through translator): This is the first center in the world using vino therapy. We use extract of grape seed, polyphenols and combine them with hot mineral water to create beauty treatments.

DILLON: People come from around the world for treatments such as the crushed cabernet scrub, meant to get rid of dead skin and detoxify the body. Then there is the treatment called pulp friction - fresh grapes mixed with essential oils massaged into the skin. There is also a merlot wrap and a sauvignon massage.

The center claims the grape seed extracts are 1,000 times more powerful than vitamin E in fighting the effects of free radicals which can damage the skin. Dermatologist Dr. Nicholas Lowe says vino therapy is one of many products that claim to fight damage caused by free radicals.

DR. NICHOLAS LOWE, DERMATOLOGIST: I wonder if it is truly, as they claim, a thousand times more effective than other free radical quenchers. But it seems to be a rather pleasant way of taking your free radical scavenger.

DILLON: Ridding free radicals or just being pampered, most guests at the spa really seem to drink in what is called the wine barrel bath -- a bubbling vat of warm water, grape seed extract and oils, all to soak the years away.

Denise Dillon, CNN.


MCMANUS: In our lead story today, we told you about President Bush's new energy plan, an initiative that's receiving mixed reviews on Capitol Hill. In today's "Chronicle," our Bruce Morton takes a look at historic advancements in energy use and why new solutions can sometimes create new problems.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): David McCullough, in his biography of John Adams, describes Adams in his plain New England house in wintertime, sitting before a roaring fire, wearing his overcoat. No insulation back then, no central heating.

Some changes since then, like central heating, happened on purpose. Others? It's hard to say. Take the interstate highway system, begun in the 1950s, when Dwight Eisenhower was president. The Cold War was on, the country needed good roads, people said, for national security.

What they didn't foresee was that people by the millions would use the good, new highways to leave the cities and move to brand-new suburbs, Levittowns, where houses cost less than $10,000. Those millions of people still had to go to work, of course, and they drove to work on those new highways, often, one person to a car.

Ever since, commuting has gotten harder, the roads more crowded, cars stuck, burning gasoline, filling the air with fumes. Take the air conditioner. Sure, it would keep your house cool in the summertime. But in fact it would do much more, trigger a massive shift of the population.

Cities like Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, and Atlanta would never have grown the way they did, as millions left the Northeast, the middle West, to live in the air-conditioned Sunbelt, where you could play golf all year round.

So now, we need energy to pay for all these changes, planned and unplanned, and the old debate will start again, save the environment, versus dig, drill, we need to explore. Alaska Senator Frank Murkowski recently showed his colleagues a picture of oil gear and caribou coexisting. And maybe, in some places, they can. .

MURKOWSKI: They are not disturbed or attacked. They are very comfortable. These are real, Mr. President. They are not stuffed.

MORTON: The best hope is probably high tech. Maybe the vice president was right when he told John King recently:

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are lots of ways we can use technology to get better, more efficient, conserve more, get more mileage, if you will, out of our energy resources, without saying to the American people, you've got to live in the dark, turn out all the lights, don't enjoy the things that our modern society brings you. MORTON: Nobody wants to wreck the environment. But nobody wants to be John Adams either, sitting in front of a roaring fire, wearing your winter coat.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


MCMANUS: That's NEWSROOM for this Monday. Thanks so much for joining us.

WALCOTT: And thank you for sitting in, Mike.

MCMANUS: Absolutely.

WALCOTT: We'll be back tomorrow.


WALCOTT: Bye-bye.



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