Tags: Cheney | Defends | Form | Findings | Energy | Study

Cheney Defends Form, Findings of Energy Study

Monday, 21 May 2001 12:00 AM

"Well, I know a lot of them, and I consider myself a pretty good environmentalist," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I was not in the business of going out and meeting with all of these groups. I'm able to lobby members of Congress, because I spent time up and that's a part of my responsibility, but everybody was heard from."

He did not dispute that representatives of energy companies and industry associations had met with the task force. However, he said there was nothing improper about the way the closed-door meetings were conducted.

"To say this was secret - it was done exactly the way government makes policy all the time, the way you make economic policy or national security policy," Cheney said.

The vice president's comments - and his appearances on a raft of Sunday's political talk shows - come amid continuing controversy about the Bush administration's energy plan, unveiled by the president Thursday. The plan has been criticized by environmentalists and Democrats have pledged to launch TV spots attacking it this week.

Cheney said he expects gasoline prices - a potentially politically significant symbol of what the administration has called the country's energy crisis - will drop from their current levels this summer.

In an interview on the CBS program "Face the Nation," Cheney said that economists who monitor the inventories of gasoline producers have told him they expect a decrease in prices once supplies are increased.

"The business inventories have started to build a bit, and if you look at futures prices with respect to gasoline, they appear to be headed down," the vice president said. "So I think the expectation is that sometime, hopefully not too long after Memorial Day, we'll begin to see those inventories reflected in prices at the pump. And the pressure will ease."

Asked what he thought a gallon of gasoline should cost, Cheney said: "I can't say that it ought to be $2 or a buck-fifty or two-fifty; I think that the point is there is a marketplace out there that will in fact determine what the price is."

The plan issued last week by the Cheney-led task force of Cabinet members and other officials has sparked fierce controversy. The White House says its priorities balance increased fuel production with environmental protection and efforts to promote energy conservation and efficiency. Its critics insist that the plan overemphasizes the burning of fossil fuels while addressing conservation more in rhetoric than in action.

The Democratic National Committee is planning to debut this week a series of television ads, in a handful of markets, slamming the Bush energy plan.

The DNC has set up a new Web site lampooning Republicans as the party of "Grand Old Petroleum" (www.grandoldpetroleum.com . The Republican National Committee has responded with www.bushenergy.com a site that encourages visitors to send messages of support for the plan to members of Congress and newspaper editors.

Democratic officials say their strategy is to link a $1.35 trillion income tax cut proposed by Bush - and supported in both the Republican-led House and the evenly divided Senate - to the energy plan, by claiming that for many Americans high gasoline prices will wipe out any extra cash they might have pocketed from the tax cut.

"Energy is a very concrete issue because people are reminded of it every time they go to the pump," DNC spokeswoman Jenny Backus was quoted as saying by the Washington Post.

Cheney, for his part, said the new plan reflected the administration's balanced approach toward fixing what Bush and his aides have repeatedly called an "energy crisis" in the United States.

"We talk extensively about conservation in our report before we ever get to the question of additional supplies," Cheney said on "Meet the Press." "Lots of times in the past we've had political leaders who've said, 'Well, we don't have to make tough decisions. We'll conserve our way out of the problem.'"

He said California - where blackouts, soaring electricity prices and a deregulation scheme Cheney called "screwy" have outraged consumers and sparked a war of words between Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and the Republican White House -- is an example of the limited effect of conservation as a means of bringing down prices and ensuring plentiful supplies.

Cheney went so far as to say that the energy plan includes many of the same conservation measures proposed by one of its more outspoken critics.

"I went back and I did a little analysis this week," he said on NBC. "The Sierra Club recently put out a set of energy proposals for how to deal with the energy problem in this country - 12 proposals. Eleven - 11! - of those 12 proposals are, in fact, almost identical to provisions in the Bush plan.

"Now isn't that fascinating that we've got here the Sierra Club set of recommendations on what needs to be done with respect to energy, and 11 out of the 12 are, in fact, incorporated in that report. But obviously they're a lot more interested in the politics of the issue than they are in dealing with the substance."

Officials of the Sierra Club, which is based in San Francisco and has an office in Washington, were not available to comment Sunday. Last week, as Bush was touting his energy plan on the road, the environmental group ran ads accusing the president of playing up conservation proposals with visits to high-tech "clean" power plants in order to obscure the report's calls for new or increased oil drilling, nuclear-power usage and pipeline construction.

Cheney said the administration had done everything it was asked to do by California officials to help resolve their state's electricity crisis, except imposing caps on prices charged to consumers.

He said such a move would be a short-term fix that ignored the underlying reasons for the shortages there.

The position was echoed by Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, who said on the ABC program "This Week" that "price caps in California will make the blackouts happen more frequently. They'll be worse, they'll last well into the future, they won't solve the problem. There are peak problems right now, because California hasn't brought any new supply into place in 10 years - no new facilities. And so, they've got an imbalance.

Abraham said the United States "will not beg for oil" by asking the OPEC cartel or its members to increase crude production ahead of a cartel meeting on June 5.

Another administration official, Environmental Protection Agency head Christine Todd Whitman, also appearing on ABC, said measures to enable California to bring more power plants on line - a deficiency that Cheney and others have frequently cited as a key reason for the state's crisis - would not include waiving air-quality standards but would allow generating companies to agree "to clean up beyond current standards, once we're past this crisis."

Friday, a Whitehouse official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told UPI that President Bush would visit the Golden State May 29 for two days, using public appearances in San Diego and elsewhere in southern California to focus attention on his energy plan.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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Well, I know a lot of them, and I consider myself a pretty good environmentalist, he said on NBC's Meet the Press. I was not in the business of going out and meeting with all of these groups. I'm able to lobby members of Congress, because I spent time up and that's a...
Monday, 21 May 2001 12:00 AM
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