With so much riding on the future direction of energy policy in the U.S., you'd expect consumers and investors to have an opinion.

Yet I never expected it to be quite this deep and divisive. After more than 500 email responses to recent columns on the

Bush

energy policy, I get the message: Americans and investors have strong opinions about Bush's proposals and their impact on consumers, the environment and investors.

Here's a very small sampling of your thoughts and opinions. If you still wish to sound off,

shoot me an email. I'm especially interested in what you think the policy means from an investor's perspective. We'll report back with the results soon.

Drill, Baby, Drill

At least a man came up with a plan that, if implemented, will help the future energy needs of America. Until now, the

only

energy plan this country had is to keep our military in the Middle East and control the flow of oil. Arabs know it and many in Washington know it. Otherwise why would we spend billions to keep the forces over there?! Saddam is just a ploy.

If the politicians and so-called environmental fellows are so concerned, I wonder why they don't quit flying in airplanes, quit driving their cars and SUVs and quit using everything that requires "juice" at their offices and homes!

--

M.Y. "Merch" Merchant, New York

I think the plan is fantastic. In the past 10 years, we have seen oil at $10 with no profit margins for exploration and refining. We have seen coal-per-ton prices so low that the industry was folding to extinction. We have seen the population increasing and the need for energy and electricity growing. Not having an energy policy put us where we deserved to be.

I would hope that the Democrats in Washington would remove their blinders and the people of California would do the same. We do not need whining and lame attempts to spoil the persona of the president by dubbing him "bought by big oil." Most of us are too intelligent for that kind of menial excuse. If not, then pay your luxury taxes on those SUVs, let them tell you what vehicle you may drive, and let them take all of your income and split it with those who aren't willing to work. Let them take your guns and your ambition and your drive and your independence. Take away our incentives, like the energy industry, and soon we will be the Third World country.

--

Deanna Fritts, Alabama

Bush and Big Oil

I think the Bush recommendations are disgraceful in most senses. I stress recommendations since everything has to pass through

Congress

before enactment. After reading all 170 pages last night, I think they did a good job of highlighting the country's problems. However, the solutions are horribly Republican.

However, all recommendations concerning oil, gas, electricity and pipelines require the lowering of environmental standards, not new infrastructure within current environmental bounds. My concern is since the U.S. is the premiere world leader, our actions will set the tone for the next century. If we reject the Kyoto pact to reduce emissions, the rest of the world will slowly follow. I don't want that much pollution for the rest of my life and certainly not that much for my future children.

I also do not support the opening of the Alaskan reserve. The West Coast needs natural gas. Alaska has oil. What am I missing? I do not think this report has really considered how much progress of the

EPA

over the past 20 years will have to be reversed with genius W's signature. I will certainly write to my representatives and ask them not to support these changes under the conditions of such horrible abuse to our environment. There are other ways that are equally as effective, just not as profitable for W's largest campaign contributors.

--

Matthew Beck, New York

The Bush energy plan was written by a man with trifocals with the top and bottom thirds of his glasses taped over. There is nothing immediate in it for California like a temporary wholesale rate cap. There is nothing long-range in it for when oil is exhausted. There is nothing straightforward about it -- like admitting that we can never obtain independence in oil. This "Drain America First and Fast" plan may possibly shore up national security in the next decade, but I doubt our children's children will thank us for it. We do have a real vulnerability to the oil producers and will continue to until we switch over to alternate fuels.

--

Alice D. Cates, California

I do not like it. I would like to see more focus on alternative sources, conservation. I think Bush's plans supports his supporters.

--

Rosanne Stratigakes, California

Right, but ...

The administration should not scoff at conservation as an important short-term tool in the current crisis. The policy will help in two to three years, but for now people must shut off lights when not in use, raise the air conditioning and plan car trips to utilize fuel better, etc. Some people are clueless to this. I have a family member who will have 2 PCs on in a room along with a TV and stereo at same time and lights all through the house. U.S. consumers are energy hogs with all the giant SUVs that were pumped out and sold to the public as being necessary. With modern engine innovations, look how much fuel would have been saved if the vehicles were two-thirds the size and had strong efficient engines.

Bush should make a public speech to talk about common-sense conservation and also to get people to change their not-in-my-backyard attitudes. I live one mile from a nuclear plant in Forked River, N.J. While I do not think we should build more nuclear plants, I do think more small plants need to be built in each state, especially California, if it is using the most energy. How can it oppose a plant when it made billions off the Internet, which is consuming so much power? It will take power from other states and ruin the other states' livelihoods. Each state will need to accept more transmission lines, too. I live near many and just accept them as necessary eyesores.

Obviously we need more natural gas, but the gasoline crisis is one of refining constraints, not lack of oil. The only solution is for people to drive less since SUVs are using so much more fuel. Conservation and production are not enemies, but two sides of a balanced barbell needed at this point in history.

--

Bernie Miller, New Jersey

Whose Policy Is It Anyway?

Dubya doesn't have a policy;

Cheney

does. I believe current pricing in the marketplace will solve the energy crisis. If there is such a thing as practical, clean coal, that would be wonderful. I hope the animals in Alaska win.

--

Richard Freeman, New York

The Market Is a Powerful Tool

I'm quite favorably disposed to Bush's energy policy, but the current energy situation will achieve far greater resolution through the market's supply-and-demand dynamics than by policies cooked up by our politicians. I can virtually guarantee you that if California electricity prices reach and stay in the 15- to 25-cent-per-kilowatt-hour range, electricity

demand growth in that state will be negative over the next five years. I can assure you that prices in that range will open up a whole array of energy-conserving investments, providing very attractive financial returns. New power plants for California won't even be needed. Long term, however, the Bush policies are needed to lessen the unbelievably absurd, restrictive conditions placed on any resource development, pipeline and transmission line construction, and power plant construction and operation.

--

Steve Davidson, Arizona

Back to Nature

I realize that more energy is necessary and required. Going back to the Dark Ages and lifting environmental policy to get it is not the answer. More investment in solar, wind and other power sources is required. I am Canadian and have great respect for the U.S. However, I am also an engineer, and I am fully aware of the potential of alternative power sources. If the U.S. can put men on the moon, why is it so difficult to invest the same amount of money that was put in that program into other energy sources? There are many other promising sources of power that are not being looked at enough: fuel cells, hydrogen fuel and geothermal energy.

The U.S. will be causing more problems for itself if it believes it can expand on the number of nuclear power plants. It sounds great now, but the expended fuel will have to be stored somewhere, and there is already no room in the U.S. for this depleted fuel and nobody else wants it. Going nuclear is the worst solution I can think of.

--

Systeme Solaire, Canada

A Look Into California's Crystal Ball

I am opposed to drilling in the ANWR

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but not for the reasons you might suspect. I don't believe we should aggressively exhaust our domestic resources. Even with improvements in extraction technology, we will run out. We

must

quit burning the stuff to produce electricity. The current policy does not seem to have any strategic component that would develop power generation from renewable resources. It is only a stopgap with no vision. Where is the Manhattan Project or the space program for renewable energy?

We can't keep increasing per-capita consumption and growing the population without the bill coming due. You only have to look at California to see the future.

--

George Johnson, Florida

The Final Word: Political Realism

I am a staunch lefty politically, but I see the exploitation of our oil and natural gas reserves as 100% inevitable. I say do it now, making us that much closer to a cleaner fuel and energy source when our supply runs dry. In the meantime, we will all save a few bucks. And last time I checked, anyone with a little green is free to invest in some of these players and make a little money. Hey, it's capitalism. Don't fight it.

--

Sam Smith, Colorado

Christopher S. Edmonds is president of Resource Dynamics, a private financial consulting firm based in Atlanta. At time of publication, neither Edmonds nor his firm held positions in any securities mentioned in this column, although holdings can change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. While Edmonds cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he welcomes your feedback and invites you to send it to

Chris Edmonds.

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