Bush energy plan looks to future
Critics say help is needed now
NEVADA, Iowa (CNN) -- President Bush released an energy strategy for his administration Thursday with an eye toward the long term, but critics swiftly accused him of ignoring immediate problems.
"We face a shortage of energy," Bush said in an appearance Thursday afternoon in Iowa. "It is real. It is not the imagination of anybody in my administration. It's a real problem."
In Iowa and earlier, in Minnesota, Bush said his plan would encourage new, environmentally friendly exploration for new sources of oil and natural gas, while encouraging conservation efforts and developing other sources of energy as well.
"One thing we're not in short supply of is an entrepreneurial spirit, and brains and problem-solvers," Bush said. (Details on Bush speech)
The plan, developed by a task force led by Vice President Dick Cheney, is already under attack by congressional Democrats who say it offers no immediate relief for U.S. consumers who currently pay high gasoline prices.
In Washington, Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minnesota, called on Bush to use his office to push oil and fuel producers into voluntarily capping their prices, and to pressure the OPEC oil cartel to boost daily production. "If you want to do something for consumers, that is what you have to do as president," Wellstone said. (More on Washington reaction to the speech)
Bush has directed federal agencies to ensure against price gouging, although he said there was no evidence of gouging so far.
And environmental groups have expressed outrage about the strategy, accusing the Bush administration of excluding them from talks during its development phase.
Bush is calling for:
Executive orders and agency reviews aimed at easing regulations the industry says slow the siting and licensing of power plants and gas refineries.
A review of the Clinton administration's interpretation of "new source review rules" that the coal industry and refiners say discourage them from making technological and other improvements because they run the risk of tougher environmental rules. (Bush plan calls for more coal burning plants)
Opening parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration, and encouraging the Interior and other departments to look at opening other federal lands now off-limits to energy exploration. (More details on energy exploration)
Officials say the plan includes $10 billion over 10 years for tax incentives including hybrid vehicle purchases, methane gas development and solar power cell installation. (More details on hybrid vehicles)
The administration blueprint comes as gasoline prices are going up ahead of the summer vacation season, while California has been struggling for months with chronic shortages of electricity. (More on summer fuel prices)
California Gov. Gray Davis has blasted the Bush administration for not doing more to help the state, which has been subject to periodic rolling blackouts since January. The state's deregulated utilities have been battered by rising wholesale energy prices while California's deregulation law limits their ability to raise rates. (More on Gov. Davis' statement)
Californians paid $27 billion to out-of-state generators last year, Davis said. This year, the cost is expected to hit $60 billion. The state's largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, filed for bankruptcy in April.
"We are literally in a war with energy companies who are price-gouging us," Davis said Thursday. Davis said Bush's proposals offer no immediate relief to the state.
The White House has said it has done everything California has asked for except imposing price controls, which the administration says would only make matters worse.
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