White House Press Briefing: Save Energy! Turn Off Those Computers!

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By: E&P Staff

At his daily briefing at the White House today, Press Secretary Scott McClellan went a few steps further than his boss in advocating energy saving steps that government workers and, by extension, all Americans should take. Whether the public interprets this as the onset of a Jimmy Carter-like “malaise” remains to be seen.

After asserting that, actually, the White House has been advocating conservation since 2001, such as turning up the thermostat in summer, McClellan said Bush aides have been “looking at additional ways that we can conserve energy. We’ll also be sending out notices to staff about — reminding them to turn off lights and printers and copiers and computers when they leave the office. We’ll continue to move forward on more e-government, paperless systems that would reduce the use of faxes and copiers and printers and things of that nature, encouraging all government vehicles to try to consume less.

“That would include by people sharing rides in government vehicles, not letting cars idle, which wastes gas. We’ll be sending out notices to staff to promote mass transit options, as well, letting them know about Metro stops and encouraging ride sharing, telling them where pick-up and drop-off points are at the White House, or reminding them of that, and just scrutinizing staff travel even more, so that people can videoconference where they can versus actually traveling, and things of that nature.

“And other areas — the President did want everybody to look at the motorcade, too, to see what could be scaled back there, as well. So I think today we probably have a couple less vans than we normally would.”

Alarmed, a reporter asked, “Press vans? The press vans will be there?”

“I think probably — I think there is usually like four press vans,” McClellan replied. “I think we’re trying to do it in two or three — staff and the guest van is combined. I think we can — all steps that people can take will help, and that’s why we look at all these measures.”

Reporters also wondered whether the president would be willing to cut back on energy-costly trips on Air Force One.

Back in 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney said, “Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it cannot be the basis of a sound energy policy.”

That same year, Ari Fleischer, then the Bush press secretary, called reducing American energy consumption
“a big no.” He said Bush “believes that it’s an American way of life.”

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