Bush defends energy plan as California governor finds fault
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- President George W. Bush called for more energy production on Saturday while California Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, whose state is strapped for power, called for an end to "price-gouging" by energy suppliers.
In back-to back radio addresses, Bush stressed that energy production and environmental protection can go hand-in-hand while Davis repeated his call for Bush to end "unconscionable price-gouging" by mainly Texas energy suppliers.
Davis also urged Bush to impose temporary caps on electricity prices, a move the administration opposes, saying it would discourage investment to boost energy production at a time of escalating demand.
"Out-of-state energy prices already have bankrupted our largest utility, put the state's solvency at risk and have started to seriously affect our economy," said Davis, adding that the struggles in California and other parts of the West could "spill over and damage the already-sluggish national economy."
Davis said that last week, the state paid a "record" of nearly $2,000 per megawatt of power, compared with paying an average of $30 for the same amount of energy last spring.
"Mr. President, runaway energy prices are not just a California problem," Davis said. "With all due respect, I urge you to stand up to your friends in the energy business and exercise the federal government's exclusive responsibility to ensure energy prices are reasonable."
Bush: 'Need to protect more blackouts'
Bush appeared to be using his radio address to try to deflect the criticism that his plan benefits the energy industry at the expense of the environment.
"Too often Americans are asked to take sides between energy production and environmental production," Bush said. "The truth is, energy production and environmental protection are not competing priorities. Both can be achieved with new technology and a new vision."
The president said under his plan, most of the new electric power plants that will be built over the next 20 years would be fueled by "clean and safe natural gas" or by wind, solar, hydro- and nuclear power, which "emit no pollution at all."
Bush also said his plan, which provides $4 billion in tax credits for consumers who purchase more fuel-efficient cars, would "foster the development of a new generation" of "cleaner" cars.
Bush didn't mention price controls or California's problems directly in his address, but said the country must "enlarge and diversify our energy supply" to prevent power shortages across the country.
"We need to prevent more -- and more widespread - blackouts," said the president. "Blackouts disrupt businesses and put public health and safety at risk. We need to act to reduce our reliance on foreign crude oil."
Since Bush unveiled his energy plan, environmentalists and Democratic lawmakers have held almost daily news conferences, accusing the president of rewarding the oil and gas industries, and paying lip service only to conservation.
On Friday, environmentalists began running a new television ad appearing in about 12 states.
The president, for his part, has been choosing environmentally friendly locations to sell his plan. Friday, he visited a hydroelectric dam along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. Besides providing electricity, the dam protects fish, he said, helping to restore the American shad to the river.
With the dam as a backdrop, Bush said he was already implementing his plan, signing two new executive orders. One would speed up the permitting process for new power plants; the other requires an assessment of the impact any new federal regulation would have on the energy supply.
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