print-only banner
The White House Skip Main Navigation

Ask the White House
Privacy Policy  

Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Clay Sell
Clay Sell
Deputy Secretary of Energy

May 25, 2005

Clay Sell
Hi, I'm Clay Sell - the Deputy Secretary of Energy. Thanks for inviting me to participate in my first session of "Ask the White House." There are a lot of important issues facing the energy sector right now and I look forward to answering your questions.

Sarah, from Dayton, Ohio writes:
What is the best way to teach kids about saving energy?

Clay Sell
Learning by doing is a great way. Look for ways to save energy at home and make the kids part of the process. Did you know that between 10 and 50 percent of the energy in the average American home is wasted because of inadequate insulation and inefficient lights and appliances? Check out the Department of Energy’s special website, and the kids section on You’ll find all sorts of things you can do to make your home more energy-efficient, which the young folks should find educational and lots of fun.

Will, from Denver writes:
Mr. Sell - I heard the Administration is working on developing a power plant that doesn't produce any pollution. Is that true, and if so, what it is?


Clay Sell
Great question, Will. We have a project called FutureGen, which is developing a coal-fueled power plant that produces no pollution or greenhouse gases, while also producing hydrogen fuel in addition to electricity. FutureGen is important because it will allow America to keep using its 250-year supply of coal without the environmental drawbacks of traditional coal plants. FutureGen could revolutionize the power industry around the world, and help make America more energy independent.

Phil, from Charleston, SC writes:
Mr. Sell,With all the technologies at our disposal today, I find it hard to believe we cannot safely and without harm to the environment, exploit the oil resources of the ANWR. Would this alone suffice to make us self-sufficient in our energy needs?

Thanks, Phil

Clay Sell
It is a proven fact that newly available technologies would indeed make oil production in ANWR possible with minimal environmental impact. The latest drilling technologies would allow us to reach most of ANWR’s oil from an area covering about 2,000 acres – about the size of a medium-sized city airport. And the total area of ANWR is 19 million acres – about the size of your home state of South Carolina. ANWR could produce about 1 million barrels of oil a day – about half the amount we currently import from Saudi Arabia. That certainly isn’t enough to make us self-sufficient, but it would help immensely.

John, from Independence Twp., MI writes:
Since the widespread blackout of 2003, what measures have been taken to prevent a similar scenario from reoccurring?

Clay Sell
The United States and Canada launched a joint investigation after the large blackout of August 2003, and a number of the recommendations from that investigation have been implemented. They include measures ranging from improving communications systems at utility control centers to making sure trees near power lines are properly trimmed. In addition, the energy bill now before Congress contains provisions for mandatory reliability rules to ensure the power grid operates as efficiently as possible. Currently, many of those rules are voluntary. We also are exploring new technologies to make electricity transmission more efficient, such as superconducting power lines.

David, from Aurora, Colorado writes:
Dear Mr. Sell: Please give me an update on why we, as a nation, have not invested in any new atomic power plants in order to increase our energy dependence along with allowing an avenue to utilize nuclear remains from such places as Rocky Flats and such? It seems to me we have ample room here in the west along with vast advancements in technologies since the 70's in order to make such objectives a reality Thanks for your thoughts and imput on this matter.


David L. Kennedy

Clay Sell
You make a great point about nuclear power. A lot of people don’t realize that nuclear power is the only technology available today that can reliably produce the large amounts of electricity we need with no pollution or greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear plants now supply 20 percent of America’s electricity, and the percentage is much larger in many other countries. As you point out, the United States hasn’t built a new nuclear plant in about 30 years. Among the reasons why that hasn’t happened are high construction costs and political opposition. The high costs result largely from regulations put into place over the years that make building these multibillion-dollar plants much more expensive than necessary. The Department of Energy has a program called Nuclear Power 2010 that is working to streamline the regulatory process and address other concerns that have kept nuclear construction from happening. As a result, a group of companies is now taking steps that could result in new nuclear plants being developed in the near future.

Gary, from Warren, MI writes:
What is our government's plan for when the peak-oil production year has passed?

Clay Sell
The world still has plenty of oil, but it’s a fact that fossil fuels are finite resources that will not last forever. And while we are not in danger of running out anytime soon, oil is becoming more difficult to find and produce, especially as demand for energy continues to climb. That is why President Bush has made energy diversity a key element of his National Energy Policy. We need a variety of sources of energy sources as well as suppliers – to keep us from becoming overly dependent on a single energy type or source. These diverse sources include hydrogen and biofuels like ethanol for transportation, and electricity sources that include nuclear power and renewable energy from wind, solar and biomass. And for the long-term, we also are looking at the potential of sources like nuclear fusion.

Robert, from South Bend writes:
Should the U.S. trust the assurances from national oil companies that their remaining reserves numbers are right? If not, what are we doing to prepare for the begining of world oil depletion?

Clay Sell
It is certainly in the long-term interest of the oil companies, and their shareholders, to have accurate reserve figures. As you know, some companies have adjusted their numbers in recent years. Petroleum reserves, and how they are calculated, can change depending on new discoveries and new technologies that can make oil and gas production more efficient, allowing petroleum that previously was unreachable to be extracted. Reliable data on key things like oil reserves is important to a company’s success in the marketplace, and companies that are unable to accurately account for their reserves are likely to suffer in the market.

Ron, from Minneapolis Minnesota writes:
Our current fuel prices seem to be a heavy drag on the economy (especially for airlines and all the transportation section). Is there anything the average person (I) can contribute to helping this problem?

Thank You.

Clay Sell
Ron, thanks for you willingness to help. I appreciate your bringing this up, because it’s important for people to realize that cutting down on wasteful or unnecessary energy consumption is always helpful. A large part of the reason behind high gas prices is the strong economic growth around the world, especially in countries like China and India, where the demand for energy is surging, pushing up prices. But by being more conscientious about how efficiently we use gasoline and other petroleum products (such as driving fuel-efficient cars like hybrids) we can help reduce demand for oil, while saving money on fuel. In addition to motor fuel, you can also save energy at home, school and work. A large percentage of the energy in our buildings is wasted because of inefficient lighting and poor insulation. Take a look at our web site,, for a lot of things you can do to help, and save some money at the same time.

Mark, from Marion, NC writes:
If farmers can make more money producing bio-diesel and ethanol crops than they can producing food crops, what will we eat?

Clay Sell
Bio-diesel and ethanol are important parts of the President’s strategy for enhancing our energy diversity. The American farmers are the most efficient food-producers in the world, and having a new market for U.S. crops will certainly not discourage food production. In fact, it might lessen the need for many agricultural subsidies that are in place today, helping make the agricultural sector even more efficient and productive.

Joanna, from Washington D.C. writes:
I saw on the news this morning that the Presidnet will be going to a "hydrogen fueling gas station" this morning in the District. What exactly is this? And going by the news reports--no hydrogen cars are on the market yet, so what is the purpose of this station? Thank you for your time.

Clay Sell
The President indeed visited a Shell service station in Washington earlier today, which is one of the very first offering hydrogen fuel. The President noted that we are too dependent on foreign sources of energy, and he predicted that hydrogen cars will be the transportation source of the future. He pointed out that the government is spending well over a billion dollars on hydrogen research to bring this technology along. In addition to reducing dependence on oil, hydrogen is a pollution-free energy source -- the only by-product of hydrogen cars is pure water.

Haley, from San Francisco writes:
Dear Mr. Sell,Here in California we are so concerned with energy shortages, high gas prices, etc. due to the high numbers of population concentration.

What is the status of the President's energy bill (I feel like there is so much back and forth in the news I don't know exactly where it stands) and will it help us Californians?

Thank you, Haley.

Clay Sell
The House of Representatives has passed its version of the energy bill, and the measure is currently under discussion in the Senate. The President and Secretary Bodman, along with many of us at the Energy Department, are working closely with leaders in Congress to pass the energy bill this year, which would give our country its first comprehensive national energy strategy in more than a decade. The bill will go a long way in helping the U.S. increase our energy efficiency, increase our domestic production of traditional energy sources, and explore new sources of clean energy for the future.

In fact, California is leading the way in many of these new sources, such as wind and geothermal power. California is also the site of some of the first fueling stations for cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen cars, which the President foresees being available when children born today are old enough to drive, would reduce our dependence on oil and help reduce air pollution – giving Californians cleaner air to breathe.

Vito, from Arizona writes:
Dear Mr. Secretary,What will the Presidents Engery Bill do for our gas prices down the road? Thank you, Vito

Clay Sell
A major goal of the President’s National Energy Policy, and the energy bill, is ensuring affordable and secure supplies of energy for our growing economy. A number of provisions in the energy bill are aimed at reducing our dependence on foreign oil, which should help stabilize gasoline prices over the long term. They include increasing domestic oil production by exploring on certain federal lands now off-limits to exploration – including a small corner of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, which could produce up to 1 million barrels of oil a day – which is about half the amount we currently get from Saudi Arabia. Additional measures include expanding our use of bio-based fuels like ethanol, which would shift more energy production back to America and provide new markets for U.S. farm crops. We also support greater efficiency in vehicles, such as the high-mileage gasoline-electric hybrid cars that are gaining popularity – and hydrogen-powered vehicles for the longer term.

John, from Hawaii writes:
Here in Hawaii, and I'm sure in numerous other areas of the country, we have constant strong winds. What is the administration doing to promote the use of wind energy? Wouldn't an increase in reliance on sources like wind and solar reduce the demand (and therefore the price) of oil, thereby strengthening both our economic and political status?

Clay Sell
Wind energy is the fastest-growing renewable energy source in the United States today. Since President Bush took office in 2001, the U.S. wind-energy capacity has doubled. The cost of making electricity from wind has decreased 85 percent over the past 20 years. Places with high, steady winds – such as coastal areas, mountaintops and the Great Plains – hold much potential for this source. The Administration supports tax incentives as well as technical research to promote wind energy and other renewable sources of electricity that will help reduce our dependence on fossil fuel and help reduce air pollution.

Clay Sell

Thanks to everyone for the great questions. A lot of them focus on the key issues that we are working to address in the energy bill that is moving through Congress. We Americans have many challenges ahead of us in the effort to make sure that we continue to have safe, affordable and reliable supplies of energy for our growing economy, and that we use and produce energy in an environmentally responsible way. It.s a great honor for me to serve the President and Secretary Bodman at the Department of Energy, and to answer your questions today. really enjoyed it.