The Post correctly observes that the conflict in the Middle East underscores the urgency of developing a national energy policy {"Needed: An Energy Strategy," editorial, Jan. 18}.

The United States should not be engaged in an oil war in the Middle East when it has failed to devise a comprehensive energy plan to wean itself from oil imports.

Unfortunately, the White House's emerging national energy plan falls far short of meeting that goal. Instead, the administration is supporting major expansions of nuclear power, domestic oil drilling (notably in the Arctic National Wildlife Refugee) and use of so-called clean-coal technologies while giving only lip service to energy conservation, improved energy efficiency and renewable energy.

This is the same mix of policies that has now embroiled us in a war with Iraq and will result in continued, if not increased, reliance on oil imports.

Fortunately, there are better alternatives. Over the next two decades, it is technically feasible and economically attractive to reduce energy consumption by at least 25 percent and simultaneously quadruple the energy now provided by renewable energy resources. Such an approach would enable the United States to eliminate oil imports, cut coal use in half and continue its de facto phase out of nuclear power.

However, if President Bush does not make such a mid-course correction in the direction of his emerging energy policy, the war with Iraq will be only the first of many times the United States is forced to fight for unstable oil supplies. KEN BOSSONG Director, Critical Mass Energy Project Of Public Citizen Washington