Bush, Gore in heated volley over energy

Kathleen Davis
Associate Editor

Once upon a time presidential hopeful Al Gore had this idea-a proposed 10-year plan, if you will. He wanted to offer tax breaks and financial assistance to power plants (and various other industries) in his potential kingdom. He believed that his plan, which included $2 billion toward distributed generation, was smart and good. He was even encouraging renewables. The future was sunny.

But Gore wasn’t the only one vying for the kingdom’s ultimate kudo: a presidential crown. George Bush wanted it too. He attacked Gore, claiming this proposed plan was a rehash of a contemporary one. He cited solar tax credits the VP had already proposed and insisted that Gore’s emissions reduction standards were lackluster and weak.

And so the tug-of-war over energy and electricity began.

The debate rages on, mostly involving attacks on people and relationships rather than actual details of Gore’s plan. Beyond the references to current administrative attempts that parallel or even overlap Gore’s proposal, the “Bush for President” camp has sent out releases labeling the Clinton-Gore energy policy “incoherent” and citing that a Gore advisor who helped draft his energy proposal had worked for companies in the electricity industry. The latter announcement followed on the heels of Gore’s comment that Bush “comes out of the oil industry.”

Bush has, indeed, been known to support companies like Enron, a Houston-based energy giant, even reportedly placing personal phone calls to the Republican governor of Pennsylvania when Enron was attempting to push into the Pennsylvania market. However, Bush has also strongly supported emissions reductions from older power plants. As governor of Texas he signed mandatory legislation that permanently caps emissions from the more than 130 old power plants in the state, according to a “Bush for President” release.

In the end, rising oil and electricity prices seem to have contributed to energy blossoming into a political “hot potato.” The Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, the Nuclear Energy Institute, and the Cato Institute have all added two cents to the pot, without any end in sight. Gore may have to defend his position more diligently than expected, and, before the finish line, either he or Bush may still end up taking their energy “ball” and going home.

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