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The United States will find the answer to its pressing energy shortfall in securing more fossil fuels -- not in conservation measures, says U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney.

He says the new U.S. energy strategy expected to be unveiled within a month will concentrate on increasing production from known sources of oil, natural gas, coal and even nuclear power.

A new power plant will have to be built every week for the next 20 years if the United States is to avoid the "rolling blackouts" that have become routine in California because of energy shortages, Mr. Cheney told the annual meeting of The Associated Press in Toronto yesterday.

Demand for electric power is expected to rise by 43 per cent in the next 20 years, he noted, and it would be unwise to increase the country's dependence on foreign supplies.

The Vice-President said new technologies are showing promise in reducing energy consumption but he promised that Americans will not have to change their lifestyles.

"The aim here is efficiency, not austerity," he said.

He reminded his audience of about 750 newspaper-industry executives that Americans were told a generation ago that they would have to do more with less but he hinted that this would not be a cornerstone of the energy policy of President George W. Bush.

"Already some groups are suggesting that government step in to force Americans to consume less energy as if we could simply conserve or ration our way out of the situation we're in," he said.

"Conservation is an important part of the total effort but to speak exclusively of it is to duck the tough issues. Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy."

Canada's Natural Resources Minister, Ralph Goodale, took issue with Mr. Cheney's full-throated call for ever-increasing energy supplies to fuel the U.S. economy.

"Certainly from the Canadian point of view, energy conservation [and]energy efficiency are very important qualities and characteristics," he told reporters in Ottawa yesterday. "They are, in fact, qualities and characteristics of an advanced, intelligent society.

"Important things can be achieved in terms of environmental security and in terms of moderating outright demand by advancing conservation and efficiency principles.

Mr. Cheney was also harshly criticized by John Bennett of the Sierra Club, who said yesterday's speech was a throwback to an earlier era.

"I haven't faced an attitude like this in 15 years," said Mr. Bennett, the organization's director of atmosphere and energy. He said the Vice-President is wrong to suggest that energy conservation would hurt the U.S. economy.

Mr. Cheney argued that an Arctic wildlife reserve in Alaska should be tapped and dismissed the fears of environmentalists that such exploration would threaten the region.

"The notion that somehow developing the resources [in this region]requires a vast despoiling of the environment is provably false."

Shipping oil and gas from Alaska would require some degree of Canadian co-operation but Mr. Cheney did not mention Canada's name.